Amtrak Vermonter Train Derailment Results in Seven Injuries

As a result of an Amtrak train derailment yesterday morning in Vermont, at least seven passengers on the commuter train suffered injuries and safety officials are asking questions about whether the incident was preventable.

The accident occurred at approximately 10:30 a.m. on Monday, when the five-car Amtrak “Vermonter” passenger train derailed while traveling from St. Albans, Vermont to Washington, D.C.

Reports suggest that the train struck a pile of large rocks covering the tracks, causing all five cars to completely derail, two of which went down an embankment.

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According to the Federal Railroad Administration, at least six passengers were treated at nearby hospitals for less severe injuries, however one crew member reportedly was rushed to a nearby hospital to be treated for serious injuries. The remaining passengers were evaluated and put on buses, where they taken to nearby Red Cross evacuation site for further treatment.

Passengers reported feeling something hit the train, and seeing the locomotive crash over the embankment and slide down to a nearby creek.

The Vermonter, or Train 55, was carrying 98 passengers and four crew members when it derailed. The particular stretch of railway where the accident occurred is owned and maintained by the New England Central Railroad, carrying both passenger and freight trains.

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin indicated in a press conference that this Amtrak derailment was a “freak of nature”, and that it does not appear the driver could have done anything to prevent it. Shumlin further explained that the rocks had apparently broken off of a ledge above the train’s path and tumbled onto the tracks sometime between Sunday night and Monday morning. The governor reported that a freight train had just passed over the same tracks the night prior without any disturbance.

Interviews with passengers indicate that they did not believe the conductor was traveling over the 59 mph speed limit and at this time there is no reason to believe that there was any negligence on anyone’s part, stated Shumlin.

The National Transportation Safety Board reported that a team of four rail investigators were sent to the scene to conduct an independent review. In addition, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, called for a swift investigation of what he described as a “horrifying zigzag of steel sliding off tracks”.

Blumenthal suggested that it is critical to have a thorough analysis of this incident to determine whether it could have been avoided.

The incident occurred just five months after a tragic Amtrak train derailment near Philadelphia, which resulted in eight deaths and varying degrees of injury for nearly 240 passengers on the north-east commuter train.

A detailed investigation of that incident by the National Transportation Safety Board determined that speed was a factor in the crash, and that the conductor was traveling 106 mph when he approached a dangerous turn in the tracks, which is rated for only 50 mph.

Dozens of Amtrak train derailment lawsuits have been filed over the Philadelphia accident, including wrongful death and personal injury claims. Earlier this month, a panel of federal judges heard oral arguments over whether to centralize those cases before one judge as part of a multidistrict litigation, or MDL.

As a result of this most recent crash, Amtrak indicates that the Vermonter will be out of service while crews remove the tipped over passenger cars, clean up the diesel fuel spills, and rebuild the tracks. Passengers who plan to use Amtrak service in that area will be bused to all stations between Springfield and points north along the route.


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