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Lawsuit following deadly Amtrak collision says county should have known crossing was treacherous

 The truck destroyed in the Amtrak collision splayed across the steep railroad embankment
Frank Morris
/
KCUR
The truck destroyed in the Amtrak collision splays across a steep railroad embankment

The widow of the dump truck driver killed in the Amtrak collision in Missouri on Monday is suing a railroad inspector and the county where the collision occurred.

The suit alleges that a supervisor for Burlington Northern Santa Fe, the railroad that owns and operates the tracks used by Amtrak, and Chariton County should have known the crossing was dangerous.

The train was traveling nearly 90 miles an hour when it struck a loaded dump truck in central Missouri. The collision and subsequent derailment killed three people on the train, Rachelle Cook and Kim Holsapple of De Soto, Kansas, and Binh Pham of Kansas City. Billy Barton II, who was driving the dump truck, was also killed. More than half of the 275 passengers on board the train were hospitalized.

The railroad tracks are several feet higher than the rural, gravel road at the intersection where the crash occurred. The tracks were partially obscured by brush and bisect the road at about a 45 degree angle. Barton approached the intersection from an angle that would have forced him to look over his shoulder to see the speeding train bearing down on the crossing.

According to the lawsuit, some 60 trains traverse the crossing daily. It alleges the intersection should have been marked by flashing lights and cross arms, rather than just a simple railroad crossing sign.

The Kansas City Star reported that a lawyer representing the family of Binh Pham is also preparing to file a lawsuit. Pham was said to be traveling on the train with a dozen family members.

Frank Morris has supervised the reporters in KCUR's newsroom since 1999. In addition to his managerial duties, Morris files regularly with National Public Radio. He’s covered everything from tornadoes to tax law for the network, in stories spanning eight states. His work has won dozens of awards, including four national Public Radio News Directors awards (PRNDIs) and several regional Edward R. Murrow awards. In 2012 he was honored to be named "Journalist of the Year" by the Heart of America Press Club.

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