Shortly following a September 25 train accident in Montana, the wife of a deceased passenger has filed a lawsuit against Amtrak and BNSF Railway. The ten-car train was traveling from Chicago to Seattle and was maintaining the speed of 75 mph at the time of the incident. While Rebecca Schneider was located in the sleeper car, her husband’s viewing car derailed, killing him. Two other fatalities in the accident include a couple, Don and Margie Varnadoe, who were taking a cross-country trip in celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary. A portion of the remaining 138 passengers and 16 crew members sought medical treatment for injuries, and all but five have since been released from the hospital.
According to Schneider’s complaint, Amtrak and BNSF Railway are allegedly negligent for failing to administer proper maintenance or inspection of the tracks or switches. In addition, she is suing for the life-altering injuries she has sustained from the accident, as well as the mental and physical injuries her now deceased husband suffered, which led to the loss of his life. Among the ten cars on the train, eight were derailed and fell to their sides. Schneider’s husband’s viewing car had completely flipped and was described as “mangled.”
Although it is currently unclear what caused the train to derail, a railroad safety expert has weighed in on the possible sources of the accident. David Clarke, director of the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Tennessee, has mentioned that a defect in the rail could have contributed to the accident, as well as a potential switch issue that could have influenced the back cars to fishtail and flip over. Clarke’s suggestions are speculation at this point, as BNSF Railway has refused to issue a comment on the matter. Despite the lack of transparent communication on the subject, it is clear that an investigation is taking place.