KANSAS CITY, Mo. — While survivors recover, victims’ families plan funerals, and investigators try to figure out what happened before an Amtrak train derailed on June 27 in Mendon, Missouri, legal teams are preparing to file the first lawsuits related to the crash in the next few days.
“These types of intersections are dangerous, they’re known hazards, and it’s totally foreseeable that accidents like this would occur,” said Clifford Law Offices Partner Kristofer Riddle.
Riddle said he plans on filing his lawsuit on behalf of someone in the crash in the next few days. His research for that case is broad, looking at all the possible reasons the crash happened, including where the rail meets the roadway.
“The line of sight for the vehicles that are coming up, the grade of the road there, it’s pretty steep, so the slope of it, what’s that like,” Riddle said.
Additionally, attorney Sam Wendt of Wendt Law Firm, P.C. announced he will be representing more than 10 of the victims from the crash, including the family of Bihn Phan of Kansas City, Missouri, one of the four people who were killed.
FOX4 has been reporting on the frustrations from people nearby for the last two days, showing how at least one local farmer brought his concerns to County Commissioners who passed those concerns to the state of Missouri.
“Whenever you cross here with a combine, you have to actually put your steering wheel all the way forward and stand up out of the seat as you are trying to climb that approach and cross and look down the track both ways,” said farmer Mike Spencer.
FOX4 learned the crossing was on MoDOT’s list of recommended upgrades for 2022 but the project was never funded.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators said there are thousands of railroad crossings like the one where the crash happened that are passive, meaning there are no flashing lights or automated gates to alert drivers when a train is coming and physically block vehicles from going onto the tracks.
Riddle says he thinks more crashes don’t happen because of the type of rail traffic often moving through those crossings.
“If we’re talking about uncontrolled crossings and high-speed passenger rail, that’s one thing, that’s going to be a different number, but a lot of these intersections are dealing with freight and a lot of those trains are moving at different speeds,” Riddle said, meaning those freight trains would be traveling slower.
NTSB representatives said they met with local leaders and people like Spencer Wednesday to talk about what the next steps should be to make crossings safer.
Riddle said the answers exist already; they just need to be installed.
“A lot of it has to do with controlling the intersections, creating the intersections, working on the intersections so they’re not hazardous to the passenger rail and into the public,” Riddle said.
The NTSB could have a preliminary report out in about two weeks. A fuller report and analysis will take much longer.
FOX4 has reached out to BNSF and the Chariton County Commission for comment on the lawsuit, but neither had a comment at this time.