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When the Crossing Gates Fail, Bad Things Happen

/ Train Accidents /

Crossing Gates Fail, Bad Things HappenNEW YORK – Have you ever been stuck on the railroad tracks? Helpless, with nowhere to turn, it can quite possibly be one of the scariest moments in anyone’s life. In many train accidents, the railroad and its insurance company are quick to blame the driver for an accident but sometimes it’s not the driver’s fault.

New York train accident attorneys at Cellino & Barnes say it’s not uncommon for railroad crossing arms and signals to malfunction, putting everyone in danger.

“Statistics show some railroad crossings are more dangerous than others in New York,” train accident attorney Ross Cellino said. “In some of these cases, we find the gates never came down to prevent traffic from entering the tracks.”

Earlier this month, a New York truck driver discovered a malfunction at the gates of a railroad crossing in Queens, which resulted in a fiery collision. Luckily, no one was seriously hurt but members of the New York media investigated the incident. ABC 7 found out the crossing gates never dropped, apparent in dashcam video obtained from a tractor trailer on the opposite side of the tracks.

“When gates don’t drop, it puts the driver in danger, it puts the train conductor in danger, and it can put every passenger in danger,” Cellino said. “The gates and signals at a railroad crossing should always be functioning properly or there could be some liability.”

In the past decade, more than 12 crashes have been recorded at the accident site in Queens, according to Federal Railroad Administration records.

Although repair crews were on-site repairing the crossing gates, eyewitness reports state trains were spotted passing the same intersection with the gates up.

“This can happen anywhere,” Cellino said. “One malfunction, one power outage, can put your life in danger.”

New York train accident attorneys suggest calling 911 immediately following any train crash. After first responders have arrived on scene, they say it may also be in your best interest to contact an experienced train accident attorney.

Amtrak Urged to Monitor Engineers with Cameras

/ Train Accidents /

Amtrak Urged to Monitor Engineers with CamerasNEW YORK – The National Transportation Safety Board made an overture on Wednesday, telling Amtrak to install video cameras to monitor the actions of its train engineers.

The recommendation is part of the Board’s response to a May train crash that killed eight and injured 200. The crash happened while an Amtrak train was traveling from Washington to New York City but derailed in Philadelphia. Investigators with the NTSB discovered the train was going more than 100 miles per hour around a curve, double the speed limit for that area.

New York train accident attorneys at Cellino & Barnes said any action that could increase train safety would be an improvement.

“Installing a recording device in a train’s cab will be a constant reminder for operators in New York,” train accident attorney Ross Cellino said. “If an engineer knows he or she is on camera, they’re more likely to make an effort to stay awake and pay attention while operating.”

New York train accident attorneys said the recordings could also serve as training videos for future engineers. The NTSB listed several accidents in which cameras assisted investigators as well.

Advocates for train engineers are opposing the proposed action, citing an ‘invasion of privacy.’ An Amtrak spokesman said, “Amtrak is reviewing the NTSB recommendations and will incorporate them, as appropriate, into our plan to install inward-facing cameras in the locomotive fleet.”

Train Company Funding Slashed Hours after Crash

/ Train Accidents /

Train Company Funding SlashedWASHINGTON – As federal investigators were sifting through the wreckage of a deadly Philadelphia train crash, members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted to cut funding to the passenger rail service.

Investigators determined the train, owned by the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (also known as Amtrak), was speeding around a curve at 106 miles per hour. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said it was traveling at more than twice the speed limit for that area.

Meanwhile in Washington, the House approved an appropriations bill that cut Amtrak funding by $260 million.

A report issued by the Amtrak Inspector General in 2012 concluded the railway would need funding like this to meet a late-2015 federal safety deadline. Amtrak is required to complete installation of Positive Train Control by the end of the year.

Train accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Cellino & Barnes said the plan to implement Positive Train Control could be a safety feature that would save lives.

“Positive Train Control would use a complex network of computers and GPS to safely navigate the railways,” train accident attorney Ross Cellino said. “These safety features could automatically apply the brakes if the computers detect a train is going too fast before going around a curve.”

A top transportation official told CNN Positive Train Control would have prevented the crash of Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188.

In a 2013 NTSB hearing, the Federal Railroad Administration said acquisition and installation of Positive Train Control would cost Amtrak an estimated $875 million and billions of dollars in additional expenses for the next 20 years.

“Nearly half of all train accidents are due to human error,” Cellino said. “Without additional safety features, every train could be just human error away from another accident.”

Amtrak has said it is “committed to meeting the requirement of positive train control” and will have it completely installed in the Northeast Corridor “by the end of this year.” The commuter train business recently planned to install the safety feature on 1,200 more miles of track from Washington, D.C. to New Rochelle, N.Y. and from Harrisburg, Penn. to Philadelphia.

Some lawmakers have proposed extending the deadline to completely install the safety feature to as late as 2020.


It’s a Crude World: Millions Live Near Volatile Railways

/ Oil Spill, Train Accidents /

It’s a Crude WorldNEW YORK – Oil has become more than just a luxury resource. For millions of Americans, it’s a necessity and the demand for black gold sends millions of gallons of the highly flammable crude oil through cities, towns and backyards across the country.

The preferred mode of transportation from east coast to west is on railways but each year, accidents happen.

On February 16, a train derailed in West Virginia resulting in an explosion and at least seven rail cars caught fire. Due to the volatile crude oil the train was transporting, dozens of nearby homes were forced to evacuate.

“That incident was in Mount Carbon, West Virginia; a town with a population of around 400 people. Imagine if something like this happened on a railway near millions of people like the tracks around New York City,” train accident lawyer Steve Barnes said.

There are thousands of miles of track used by more than a half dozen railroad companies in the business of transporting crude oil. Many of these railways travel through New York metropolitan area.

evac zoneAt the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT), federal authorities have mapped out half-mile-wide ‘evacuation zones’ and mile-wide areas that could be affected if another train accident were to occur.

“These crashes not only cost billions of dollars in damage, they can put lives at risk,” Barnes said.

The US DOT recently predicted there will be an average of 10 dangerous derailments every year for the next two decades.

To see an interactive map of crude oil railways, click here.

Deadly Crash the Latest, Not First, of Metro North Disasters

/ Train Accidents /

Deadly Crash the LatestNEW YORK – Hundreds of people are killed in train collisions every year. On Monday, seven more died in a fiery crash in Valhalla when a Metro North train carrying over 400 passengers struck a car stranded on the tracks, authorities said.

The crash is just the latest disaster to happen on Metro North tracks. According to Federal Railroad Administration records, a truck was slammed by a train at the exact same rail crossing in 1984. The 21-year-old driver was killed.

In just the last two years, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated how more than 60 people were injured as a result of four different derailments or collisions on Metro North lines.

In 2014, an electrician was hit and killed by a northbound train in Manhattan. Investigators found the crash was caused by miscommunication and poorly understood safety procedures.

In 2013, a track foreman was killed after being hit by a train speeding at 70 miles per hour. determined railroad administrators did not implement safety recommendations that could have prevented that accident.

Later the same year, a deadly derailment killed four people and injured dozens of others in the Bronx. the train was traveling 82 mph around a left-hand curve, and a 30 mph zone. It was later determined that the engineer had fallen asleep and Metro-North did not have a policy requiring medical screening for sleep disorders.

Several of these crashes resulted in lawsuits because safety procedures were not always followed or required by railroad administrators.

According to Operation Lifesaver, rail crashes have been steadily decreasing since the 1980’s because of strict regulations put in place over the last few decades.

“Every three hours in the U.S., a vehicle or a person is hit by a train,” Operation Lifesaver president, Joyce Rose said. “[Tuesday’s crash] highlights the critical need for all drivers to use caution at every highway-rail grade crossing.”

Although the accidents have decreased in the last three decades, trains are still responsible for more than 200 deaths and nearly a thousand injuries every year.


NYC Metro North Train Crash Kills 7

/ Personal Injury, Train Accidents /

NYC Metro North Train Crash Kills 7NEW YORK – A Metro North train carrying hundreds of passengers struck a car just north of the train station, according to first responders. The crash resulted in seven deaths and more than a dozen injuries.

Images from MSNBC showed the aftermath of the crash, including a fiery explosion that engulfed the train and the car in Valhalla, N.Y.

More than a dozen investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and other agencies will determine what caused the crash.

The gates came down on top of the vehicle, which was stopped on the tracks,” Aaron Donovan, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said in a statement. “The driver got out to look at the rear of the car, then she got back in and drove forward and was struck.”

NYC Metro North Train Crash Kills 7At the scene late Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the scene a “truly ugly and brutal sight.” Cuomo said the maximum speed for the train in the area of the crash was 60 miles per hour but authorities have not officially determined how fast the train was moving.

According to authorities on scene, at least 15 people were hospitalized for mild to severe injuries.

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