KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The widow of a truck driver killed in the Amtrak train crash and derailment in Missouri has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
Attorneys for Erin Barton, wife of Billy Barton II, filed the suit against Chariton County and BNSF roadmaster Mariano Rodriguez.
Billy Barton was driving a dump truck Monday on Porche Prairie Avenue when he attempted to drive over what’s known as the “Porche crossing” at BNSF tracks. An Amtrak passenger train going 90 mph struck Barton’s truck, killing the Brookfield, Missouri, man and three train passengers.
The lawsuit said Barton didn’t “see or hear the train coming with adequate warning to safely cross the tracks.”
In Erin Barton’s wrongful death lawsuit, she accuses Rodriguez and the county of negligence for leaving the road leading to the crossing and the crossing itself in a dangerous condition.
Rodriguez is a manager in BNSF’s engineering/maintenance of way department and, according to the lawsuit, is responsible for inspecting and maintaining the railroad company’s right of way including the Porche crossing.
The lawsuit alleges the Porche crossing, which was a grade crossing, had impaired sight triangles and “an excessively small” crossing angle at the road and tracks’ intersection. Erin Barton argues the small crossing angle caused impaired visibility for drivers.
The lawsuit also argues that the sloped approach up to the crossing, and brush, trees, and crops block the full view of oncoming trains.
Barton’s suit said the crossing is narrow, rough, and poorly maintained, distracting drivers and making it difficult to cross. These conditions have existed for years, she says.
In addition, it’s a passive crossing, meaning there are no warning devices like bells, crossing arms, or lights. The Porche crossing only has signs indicating there are tracks nearby.
Barton alleges that Rodriguez should have known the Porche crossing was dangerous, “yet he did nothing to ameliorate the danger to motorists or train occupants (crew and passengers) to ensure that gates and lights were installed at the crossing.”
The lawsuit also argues the county is responsible for properly designing, building, inspecting, repairing, and maintaining its roads, including the road leading up to the crossing.
Barton argues the approaches to the Porche crossing were not in compliance with national and state standards for roads approaching tracks, “making the roads dangerous to use.”
The suit says the road was in dangerous condition, and the Chariton County Road Authority knew or should have known. Concerned citizens had reported the dangerous crossing to the road authority “well in advance,” the lawsuit says.
Barton’s attorneys are requesting a jury trial and damages in excess of $25,000 from each defendant.