7 passengers injured in Amtrak train crash that killed 3 railway companies

The September 25 derailment near Joplin, MT left three people dead; at least seven others were hospitalized.

The Amtrak Empire Builder 7/27 train was heading west of Chicago in the Pacific Northwest when it derailed, according to Amtrak. BNSF Railway is responsible for maintaining the track where the incident occurred.

The crash claimed the lives of Don Varnadoe, 74, and his wife Margie, 72, as well as Zach Schneider, a 28-year-old senior software engineer who was traveling with his wife, Rebecca, to visit Portland.

The lawsuits, filed this week in US District Court in Chicago, accuse Amtrak of being “at fault and (violating) the highest duty of care,” adding that it had “a duty to operate, to inspect, maintain and repair railcars safely ”. and the locomotives that made up … the train. “

“We believe that Amtrak and BNSF are ultimately responsible for transporting their passengers from point A to point B safely,” passenger lawyer Sean Driscoll told CNN. “We will be looking at all causes such as maintenance, condition of cars and human error.”

CNN reached out to Amtrak and BNSF for comment on the lawsuits, but did not immediately receive a response.

Couple celebrating 50 years of marriage and man nearing 5th wedding anniversary killed in Amtrak derailment

The lawsuits were filed on behalf of a couple from Massachusetts, a couple from Pennsylvania, a couple from Indiana and a man from Montana who all claim to be injured. They are seeking pecuniary damages as well as punitive and emotional damages, according to the lawsuits.

“The plaintiffs suffered serious physical and emotional injuries, requiring past and future medical care, disability, loss of enjoyment of life, pain, anxiety, distress and emotional trauma,” said prosecution.

The passenger lawsuits last week follow that of Rebecca Schneider, whose husband was killed. She sued both companies for wrongful death and negligence.

At that time, the BNSF told CNN that it was not discussing ongoing litigation. The company operates 400 rail lines in the United States, according to its website.

And Amtrak said, “Amtrak is sorry for the loss of Ms. Schneider and the Schneider family. We provide assistance to injured passengers and employees and the families of those who have lost loved ones but are otherwise unable to comment on disputes. in progress. “

About 141 passengers on the train

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

Agency vice president Bruce Landsberg said last week that a team of 14 investigators and experts had been dispatched to the crash scene to examine the frontal video of the train as well as video from the same point of view of a freight train which had passed through the area almost an hour and a half before.

“We don’t know if it was a track problem or a problem with the train, so all of these things are open,” Landsberg said after the crash. “There is a long way to go and there is significant damage, so our experts are really going to look into that. “

The train consisted of two locomotives and 10 cars and there were about 141 passengers and 16 crew on board, according to Amtrak.

Passenger Megan Vandervest was asleep when the derailment woke her up.

NTSB examines black box and video of Amtrak train to determine cause of derailment in Montana

“I would describe the experience as kind of extreme turbulence in an airplane but stronger, and there was sort of a smoke smell. The first thought I really had when I woke up was, ‘Oh my God we derail ‘. ”She told CNN.

“It was probably 10 or 15 seconds of back and forth and tons of noise, and then we stopped. Really, we didn’t know what was going on for a few minutes.”

Vandervest said she was evacuated within 10 minutes of the crash and was shocked to see the extent of the damage that had occurred.

“We kind of thought the car behind us had come off slightly or something, but it ended up being a lot worse and a lot more shocking to see when we got off the train,” she said. . “The car behind ours was a little off, then the one behind that was sort of between two sets of tracks, and the one behind that had completely overturned and fell and that was kind of the most shocking. “

Data shows the train was traveling between 75 and 78 miles per hour before exiting a right-turn section of track where the speed limit was 79 miles per hour, Landsberg said.

Investigators were working to interview the train crew as well as BNSF track inspectors who carried out an inspection where the train left the track.

CNN’s Deanna Hackney and Susannah Cullinane contributed to this report.

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