Amtrak sues dump truck owner after fatal Missouri train crash

Amtrak and BNSF Railway have filed a federal lawsuit alleging negligence by a Missouri company led to a train crash and derailment on Monday that killed four people, including the driver of the company’s dump truck.

The Southwest Chief train, traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago with 275 passengers and 12 crew members, plowed onto the back of a dump truck near the town of Mendon, Missouri, northwest of Columbia, at a level crossing not marked with electronic signals or crossing arms.

Amtrak and BNSF’s lawsuit, filed Thursday in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, names MS Contracting as a defendant.

The dump truck driver, 53-year-old Billy Barton II, was delivering bricks “for and on behalf of MS Contracting” in a truck owned by the company on the day of the accident, according to the lawsuit.

He attempted to cross the railroad crossing “despite the fact that it was unsafe, careless and reckless to do so because of the clearly visible Amtrak train approaching,” court documents said.

The lawsuit alleges that the crash and subsequent derailment cost BNSF and Amtrak, which operates its trains on rails owned by the freight company, “in damage well in excess of $75,000 each.”

“MS Contracting operated the dump truck in a negligent, careless, and reckless manner that caused the Amtrak Train 4 collision and derailment,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges, among other things, that MS Contracting and its agents, officers and employees failed to service, inspect or repair the 2007 Kenworth dump truck involved in the accident.

Amtrak and BNSF also allege that MS Contracting “failed to properly train and supervise its employees, including Bill Barton,” according to court documents.

“At all times relevant to this complaint, Barton’s actions were: (1) within the scope and scope of his employment with MS Contracting; (2) with the authority, consent and knowledge of MS Contracting; and (3) for the benefit of and under the direction and control of MS Contracting,” the lawsuit states.

MS Contracting’s alleged lack of policies and procedures for operating its vehicles at level crossings caused the collision and derailment, the lawsuit says.

Michael E. Sattman, MS Contracting’s registered agent, declined to comment Thursday, urging the Times to direct questions to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash.

When asked if he had lawyers, Sattman said, “They won’t comment either.” He then hung up the phone.

NTSB officials said the investigation into the crash would focus on the railroad crossing, which was earmarked for improvement and posed a safety concern for local farmers.

The collision was not likely linked to any mechanical or track problems, officials said.

In addition to Barton, three train passengers died in the crash. More than 150 people were injured.

Jeff Goodman, a public transit attorney who has represented passengers and their families in disasters, said the companies involved are “already pointing fingers at each other rather than focusing on what safety improvements need to be made.”

The companies’ actions indicate “a lack of priority given to security at Amtrak and BNSF,” Goodman said.

“Rather than directing their resources to shenanigans and litigation tactics, Amtrak and BNSF should focus on preventing another disaster,” he said.

Times contributor Richard Winton contributed to this report. Amtrak sues dump truck owner after fatal Missouri train crash

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