On what would have normally been a happy Independence Day holiday spent with family, July 4, 2012 proved to be a fateful day for Zorine and Burton Lindner. A train hauling coal from Wyoming to Milwaukee hit a kink in the tracks that afternoon, causing a derailment that left 28 rail cars piled up on a bridge. The bridge was not made to handle heavy weight for long periods of time. As a result, the bridge fell, crushing the Lindners. It was first believed that no one was injured in the accident, but a cleanup worker spotted the car’s bumper, leading to discovery of their bodies.
The family has now filed suit against Union Pacific, accusing them of negligence for failing to properly maintain and inspect its train track. Lawyers of the family obtained a court order to stop work at the site for 36 hours in order to give their own experts time to inspect the scene and gather crucial evidence.
Union Pacific had already installed temporary tracks and is running trains again. Union Pacific claims the extreme heat caused the tracks to buckle. An earlier derailment on the bridge in November of 2009 made the Lindners’ attorneys skeptical of the railroad’s claim that heat was the cause.
According to the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety, which promotes and regulates railroad safety, there are almost 2,000 train accidents per year and over 11,000 train accidents/incidents. These tragedies remind us that the safety of those who travel depends upon the rigorous enforcement of safety regulations.