By now, everyone in the Chicago area has heard about the train derailment on July 4, which resulted in two fatalities when a bridge collapsed. But what many do not realize is that Union Pacific railroad employees had identified the danger before the crash. It was a critical failure to follow up on warnings by those employees which directly led to the crash, the bridge collapse, and the resulting damage and deaths.
In fact, on the morning of the crash, one of Union Pacific’s employees assigned for signal maintenance called the railroad’s track inspectors. The signal maintenance employee reported that something “didn’t look quite right” on the track, in precisely the area where the fatal derailment occurred. The signal inspector, however, did not have the expertise to understand what he was seeing, or to determine the level of danger involved.
The track inspector, who did have such expertise, didn’t come, however, in time to prevent the tragedy.
The railroad now calls the fatal problem with the tracks a “heat-related anomaly.” In plain language, the train accident was caused by the area’s intense heat wave, which allowed the steel rails on the track to expand so far that a “kink” was formed. When the rail cars hit the kink, they jackknifed and derailed.
At this point, the railroad continues to defend the integrity and inspections of the bridge itself – which an independent engineering firm had recently concluded was structurally sound.
More will be known once the Federal Railroad Administration, and possibly the National Transportation Safety Board, completes its investigation. An investigation on behalf of the two victims should also help to create a full picture of how the events leading to this tragedy unfolded.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago train accident lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.