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Missouri Amtrak crash caused $4 million in damage, new transportation board report says

A deadly derailment involving an Amtrak train and a dump truck last month in rural Missouri caused an estimated $4 million in damages, according to a preliminary report by the investigating agencies.

The National Transportation Safety Board on Thursday posted a preliminary report confirming details previously released about the collision, which left the truck driver and three passengers dead, and many more wounded, as the train passed through Mendon, Missouri.

The train, headed from Los Angeles to Chicago, was carrying 270 passengers and 12 crew members, according to the NTSB report. The locomotive and every railcar derailed during the collision. Seven of the railcars came to rest off the tracks on their sides.

The report released Thursday was the first of two expected from the NTSB, the federal agency that reviews major transportation catastrophes. Officials have said a more thorough analysis could be months away as the investigation continues.

“Future investigative activity will focus on highway railroad grade crossing design specifications, railcar design, survival factors, and passenger railcar crashworthiness,” the report read.

The crash occurred June 27 on a rural stretch of the Southwest Chief, a passenger route that runs along train tracks owned and maintained by BNSF Railway.

The preliminary report confirmed that around 12:45 p.m., the train was traveling at nearly 89 miles per hour — just under the posted speed limit — moments before striking a full dump truck that was stopped on the tracks.

In the aftermath, residents and area officials have said that there had been concerns about the railroad crossing on Porche Prairie Avenue, where the crash happened. Those included the steepness of the gravel road at the crossing, the brush that grows along the tracks and the lack of lights and gates at the intersection.

The preliminary report stated the “highway railroad grade crossing” included crossbucks and a stop sign that the truck driver would have encountered ahead on his right while approaching the crossing from the south.

Three people died at the scene, including truck driver Billy Barton II of Brookfield, Missouri. Rachelle Cook, 58, and Kim Holsapple, 56, sisters from De Soto, Kansas, traveling in one of the train cars that derailed as part of a weekend girls’ trip, were also killed.

Another passenger, Binh Phan, 82, of Kansas City, also traveling with family, died the following day in a hospital.

The disaster set off a massive public emergency effort centered on the small town of Mendon, population 271, as passengers were rescued by first responders and many were carted to hospitals across the state. Roughly 150 people were treated for injuries related to the crash.

Lawsuits filed by passengers, crew members and family of the truck driver allege Amtrak and BNSF knew or should have known the crossing was unsafe, seeking damages for injuries. Meanwhile, Amtrak and BNSF have countered in court that MS Contracting, the Missouri company that operated the dump truck, was responsible for causing the crash.

This article originally appeared in the The Kansas City Star

Photo: Rich Sugg

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