Lawsuits filed in deadly Washington train derailment - KPTV - FOX 12

Lawsuits filed in deadly Washington train derailment

Posted: Updated: Jan 04, 2018 12:17 AM

An assistant Conductor and passenger on board Amtrak train 501 that derailed near DuPont, Washington in December have filed lawsuits in Pierce and King Counties against company.

The crash killed three people, injured dozens other, and sent rail cars crashing onto Interstate 5 on the morning of Dec. 18 2017.

Garrick Freeman's lawyer Anthony Petru says Freeman was in the front of the train when it derailed. He filed a complaint on Freeman's behalf in Pierce County Superior Court.

Petru says the training for this new run from Seattle to Portland was crammed into a few night sessions and those operating the train were not property prepared to do so.

"They didn't take the time and put in the effort to make sure the employees were completely and competently trained to do this kind of a run," Petru said.

He adds the tracks themselves were not safe for rail travel.

"The laws of physics tell you that if you are going to go down something that is steep and then suddenly turn in a flat spot you are going to get launched and sadly that is what happened to the train," Petru said.

Initial reports indicated that the train was traveling more than twice the speed limit when it left the tracks.

"Why the track was being opened just before Christmas when the training was packed into a short period of time, why did they not spend the money to straighten out the track when the option was on the table," Petru said.

Freeman suffered several broken bones and internal injuries from the crash. 

Also filed Wednesday, a lawsuit by one of the passengers inside the car that left dangling over I-5.

Michael Krzak, who is representing several others involved in this crash, filed a lawsuit in King County on behalf of Pennie Cottrell.

"This was a traumatic experience for her in being thrown around the car from her seat," Krzak said.

Krzak says Cottrell suffered several broken bones in the crash. He cites safety of the new rail line and the in-experience of the crew as contributing factors to the crash.

"Did Amtrak do enough to make sure the conductor operating the train was familiar enough with the route to operate the train safely," Krzak said.

He also cites the Positive Train Control System that had not been put in operation as something that could have prevented this crash. 

Both lawyers say more lawsuits will likely be filed in the future. 

"It's the first step in getting answers for our clients as to what failures on the part of Amtrak led to this derailment," Krzak said.

When asked for comment on the lawsuits filed an Amtrak spokesman said, "Amtrak doesn’t comment on pending litigation."

Federal investigators are still working to determine the cause of the crash. They say their full investigation could take more than a year.

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