On March 9, 2015, Amtrak train number 80, the Carolinian, was headed northbound from Charlotte, NC and destined for New York when it derailed near Halifax, North Carolina after striking an oversized tractor trailer obstructing the tracks at a railroad crossing.
The tractor trailer, owned by Guy M. Turner, Inc., a multi-state trucking company headquartered in Greensboro, North Carolina, was being operated by John Devon Black, a Turner employee and convicted felon with a history of traffic violations. The mammoth rig, hauling a huge load of building material, was reportedly sitting across the tracks for up to 20 minutes prior to the crash as the driver attempted to navigate a turn onto another roadway. Because of the size of the load, the tractor trailer was being escorted across the tracks by the North Carolina Highway Patrol.
The crash is being investigated by the Federal Railroad Administrationin cooperation with the NTSB and NC State Police. The investigation will likely focus on whether the driver of the tractor trailer or any member of the NC Police escort called a toll-free number posted at the railroad crossing to notify Amtrak that the truck was blocking the tracks, giving the Carolinian’s driver an opportunity to slow or stop the train. If that call was made, investigators will try to determine what, if anything, was done with that information and why the train wasn’t stopped. Additionally, investigators will look closely at the truck driver’s qualifications to drive the oversized rig.
Speiser Krause attorneys have been retained to represent the most seriously injured in the Carolinian derailment. With experience representing victims of prior Amtrak accidents as well as European train accidents, we look forward to joining in the investigation and bringing culpable parties to justice. We also hope to effect change in the railroad industry so that rail accidents become less frequent occurrences.