On Tuesday, two BNSF freight trains collided head-on while travelling on the same track near the town of Panhandle, Texas near Amarillo. The collision left a heap of charred wreckage that burned for hours, fed by the trains’ diesel fuel. One crew member managed to jump from one of the trains prior to the collision and escaped with non-life-threatening injuries, but three other crew members remain missing.
According to BNSF, it is unclear at this time how fast the trains were going, but trains on that track can travel as fast as 70 miles per hour. It is also unclear, according to BNSF, whether new safety technology designed to avoid collisions was in use along the track. There is a 2018 federal deadline to adopt new Positive Train Control, or PTC technology to prevent collisions, which BNSF has pledged to meet. PTC includes the use of GPS, radio, and computers to monitor trains and automatically stop or slow them when they are in danger of collision or derailment.
Train collisions are comparatively rare. Collisions constitute less than ten percent of the approximately 1,800 “train accidents” reported by the Federal Railroad Administration every year-a statistic that does not include collisions with vehicles at railroad crossings, which are classified differently. However, when collisions occur, the damage can be spectacular and the results tragic, as exhibited in the Texas collision. Also, given the availability of GPS and modern communications, it is difficult to see how a modern railroad could ever allow two trains to end up on the same track going in opposite directions.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a train accident or while working for a railroad, contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling 713-396-3964 or toll free at 800-594-4884.