Spate of bus and train accidents highlight risks of public transportation

by Eric Pearson

A recent spate of bus and train accidents has once again highlighted the risks of public transportation. Accidents occurring in the U.S. and abroad have killed and injured dozens as the summer holiday season continues.

A July 24th train crash in Spain killed nearly 80 passengers. The train’s driver has been charged with 79 counts of homicide after investigators determined he was traveling far too fast as the train rounded a curve. At least 70 other passengers were injured when the train derailed in northwestern Spain, at least 22 of them seriously. The train was nearing the end of its 6-hour trip from Madrid to Ferrol, a small town on the Atlantic coast, when it crashed. At least one of the victims was from Texas, 58 year-old Myrta Fariza of Houston.

On July 28, a bus in southern Italy plunged off a bridge into a wooded area, killing at least 38 passengers. The bus lost control near the town of Monteforte Irpino in Irpinia, a largely agricultural area about 60 kilometers (40 miles) inland from Naples and about 250 kilometers (160 miles) south of Rome. Avellino police official Pasquale Picone said the bus struck 11 cars on the road before falling off the bridge, leading police to suspect the bus had brake problems.

Several weeks ago, a Canadian train crash killed at least 47 people and wiped out the small Quebec town of Lac-Megantic, 130 miles east of Montreal. That train was a cargo train carrying 72 tank carts filled with oil. The train exploded when it went off the tracks after it began rolling downhill with no crew onboard. A preliminary investigation has shown that the train’s brakes may not have been properly set when it was parked for the night.

Just today, another train crash was reported, this one in western Switzerland. Swiss media reported that at least 44 people were injured when two trains collided head-on.

Closer to home, a bus crashed in Indiana on July 27th, killing three and injuring dozens. The bus was only one mile from its destination when it veered off Interstate 465, hit as concrete barrier and rolled on its side. Among the dead were a church youth pastor and his pregnant wife, Chad and Courtney Phelps. The bus was returning from a church youth camp in Michigan.

The Indiana bus crash was eerily reminiscent of a 2002 bus crash in East Texas that killed several children returning from a church camp. In that case, Heygood, Orr & Pearson partner Eric D. Pearson represented the family of Nick Stout. Nick suffered a traumatic brain injury when the bus he was taking to church camp slammed into a concrete bridge abutment in East Texas, killing four and injuring dozens.

Evidence showed that the driver of the bus, Ernest Carter, was under the influence of cocaine and valium at the time of the crash. He was also suffering from fatigue due to his failure to adhere to government regulations relating to maximum hours and minimum rest periods. The evidence also showed that Defendant Eric Rockmore, owner of Discovery Tours, falsified documents to cover up Carter’s rules violations. Following a three week trial, the jury in the 14th Judicial District Court of Dallas County, Texas found in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded the Stout family more than $36 million.

If you have been seriously injured, or someone you know has been hurt or killed, in a bus crash or train accident, you may be entitled to compensation. To find out if you may have a case, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out our free online case evaluation form.

by Eric Pearson

Eric Pearson is a licensed attorney and a partner at HO&P who handles commercial and personal injury lawsuits. Eric has been selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication.