The collision and derailment of two trains on July 21, 2014, in Slinger, Wisconsin, has reignited discussion regarding railroad safety among government officials and public safety experts. The investigation is ongoing, but initial reports indicated that approximately 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled at the scene. Residents of more than 100 homes in Slinger were evacuated due to concerns regarding potential fire hazards and injuries due to exposure to fumes. A similar incident occurred in July 2012 in Slinger when a freight train loaded with hazardous materials derailed in the small Wisconsin community. Although no injuries have yet been reported, railway workers may be eligible for compensation under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). Consulting a FELA claim lawyer can ensure that their rights are protected and that they receive appropriate compensation for any injuries sustained in this dangerous accident.
Causes Still Unknown
Investigators are looking into possible equipment malfunctions on the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Company train as a contributing factor to the recent collision and derailment. It is believed that this train failed to reach the rail crossing at which the incident occurred at the expected time. This delay resulted in the Wisconsin & Southern train’s arrival at the crossing at the same time as an on-schedule Canadian National Railway train. Seven Wisconsin & Southern freight cars and three locomotives and three freight cars of the Canadian National train derailed in the collision.
Evaluating the financial costs of the Slinger train collision and the indirect effects of exposure to chemicals and spilled fuel will take weeks or months. If the fuel had ignited at the scene, however, the immediate costs in injuries and fatalities would likely have been devastating. Even small delays or mistakes in train scheduling or speed regulation can have tragic results. The increasing use of high-speed rail transport to move domestic oil and gas products in Canada and the U.S. has increased the risk of serious accidents in the railroad industry:
- On April 30, 2014, a CSX tanker train derailed in Lynchburg, Virginia, spilling approximately 50,000 gallons of oil into the St. James River. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is currently investigating the incident; the extent of water contamination in the area has yet to be determined.
- A grain train derailment and subsequent collision with an oil tanker train in Casselton, North Dakota, on December 30, 2013, led to the evacuation of more than 1,000 residents and resulted in a spill of 400,000 gallons of oil. The NTSB estimates damages for this incident at $6.1 million.
- The Lac-Mégantic derailment on July 6, 2013, unleashed a torrent of burning oil on the small Canadian community that killed 47 people and destroyed much of the downtown area. The train was operated by the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway Company and had been left unattended on a main line. It subsequently began to roll downhill toward Lac-Mégantic and derailed at high speed in the early morning hours. Had the incident occurred during the business day, the loss of life would likely have been much higher.
These incidents highlight the safety issues and risks entailed in transporting oil in the rail industry. For train workers who suffer damages or injuries in the course of their duties, retaining the services of a qualified railroad injury attorney can not only provide compensation for their medical costs but can help to hold train companies accountable for their failure to protect the safety of their employees and the public at large.
FELA railroad accident attorneys can help injured workers obtain the settlements they need to manage ongoing medical bills and to provide financial support during the recovery process. By pursuing their claims with the help of these experienced professionals, railroad employees can promote improved safety in the working environment and in the public arena.