Earlier this week, tragedy struck the Tacoma, Washington area when an Amtrak train crashed on its maiden voyage. 6 people lost their lives and many more were injured after the train skipped the tracks and ended up going over a bridge onto Interstate 5.
From CBS Los Angeles:
An Amtrak train making the first-ever run along a faster new route hurtled off an overpass Monday near Tacoma and spilled some of its cars onto the highway below, killing at least six people and injuring about 50, authorities said. The death toll was expected to rise.
Seventy-eight passengers and five crew members were aboard when the train moving at more than 80 mph derailed about 40 miles south of Seattle on a route that had raised safety concerns.
Apparently, the train was traveling way faster than it should have been.
From NBC News:
The train that careened off a bridge outside Tacoma, Washington, killing three people was traveling at 80 mph on a 30-mph stretch of track, federal investigators confirmed late Monday.
During a late-night briefing with reporters, NTSB board member Bella Dinh-Zarr added that Train 501 of Amtrak’s Cascades service from Seattle headed south to Portland, Oregon, was carrying 80 passengers, three crew and two service personnel.
She said it was “too early to tell” why the train was travelling at 80 mph.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, now it looks like Amtrak could have prevented this incident.
The rush to launch service on a new, faster Amtrak route near Seattle came at a deadly cost — critical speed-control technology that could have prevented a derailment was not active before the train set off on its maiden voyage.
Work to install the sophisticated, GPS-based technology known as positive train control isn’t expected to be completed until next spring on the newly opened 15-mile (24-kilometer) span where the train derailed, according to Sound Transit, the public agency that owns the tracks.
Sounds like the rush to get this thing up and running caused Amtrak to cut corners.
You can bet that Amtrak has a lawsuit headed its way.
However, the liabilities could be capped at $200 million.
From NBC News:
The 1997 Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act sets a $200 million maximum limit for the “allowable awards to all rail passengers, against all defendants, for all claims, including claims for punitive damages, arising from a single accident.” That means that no matter how many are killed, no matter how many are injured, and no matter how serious the injuries are, the maximum dollar amount all the plaintiffs combined can recover from all the defendants combined is $200 million.
While that’s a lot of money, it can be insufficient in the case of derailments, according to judges who call the process of taking from one victim and giving to another a “Sophie’s Choice” decision on a mass scale.
The 2008 Metrolink crash near Chatsworth, California, left 24 dead and more than 100 injured. The judge tasked with allocating the $200 million among the victims estimated that the total value of the crash was potentially greater than $350 million, had each individual case gone to trial.
We haven’t heard the last of this one.
[Note: This post was written by Andrew Mark Miller]