(Editor’s Note: This is a news story from the ‘Morgan Monitor,’ a news service offering legal perspectives on news that happens in your community.)
[Update, March 10: Since we filed this story, more survivors and family members of the deceased have filed lawsuits. Some seek to hold the railroad responsible as well as the bus and tour companies. Early details from the National Transportation Safety Board indicate the bus driver may not have followed the route provided by the tour company, instead using GPS.]
At least one family is suing over the freight train and charter bus crash in Biloxi that killed at least four people and injured at least 40 more. The family of two Texas school administrators who died in the crash filed a million-dollar wrongful death lawsuit today, saying companies responsible for a bus tour should have known about the troubled history of the railroad crossing.
A trip from Austin, Texas, to two casinos in Biloxi met an abrupt end Tuesday when a CSX Transportation freight train collided with a charter bus operated by ECHO Tours and Charter Transportation at a crossing in downtown Biloxi known notorious for crashes.
The lawsuit, filed by the Hoffman family on behalf of passengers Ken and Peggy Hoffman, alleges negligence on the part of the bus driver, ECHO Tours and Charter Transportation, and Diamond Tours Inc., according to KXAN. The lawsuit seeks millions in damages, reports say.
The Hoffmans were highly respected administrators in the Lockhart Independent School District in Lockhart, Texas. Combined, they served the district for more than 80 years, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
The lawsuit asserts that the site’s history of accidents and signs indicating a humped or low grade crossing should have adequately warned the bus driver and the companies involved to adjust to the circumstances accordingly. It also mentions passengers waited more than 30 minutes before they were taken off the bus, meaning critically injured passengers were forced to wait for treatment. News reports have indicated that the crossing has had collision problems going back 40 years.
ECHO Tours and Charter Transportation is the owner of the bus involved in the accident. They also employ the bus driver. Diamond Tours Inc. is a company that plans trips for groups like the Bastrop Senior Center residents involved in the accident.
The collision occurred at the Main Street railroad crossing. The lawsuit explicitly mentions the Pepsi truck collision that occurred only two months prior. Larger vehicles like trucks, buses, and limousines get stuck on crossings like this one because of the grade, which is sometimes different on either side of the crossing. The result is vehicles stranded on the crossing, vulnerable to collision with trains.
This suit is one of many developments coming out of the Biloxi crash, as city officials work with the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate crossing issues in the area. Early reports from the mayor, CSX, and the NTSB indicate discussions about the crossings were ongoing, and changes or closures to the more dangerous crossings might occur.
Wrongful deaths can occur in several circumstances. Negligence or misconduct in the form of workplace accidents, car crashes, and medical malpractice are common causes of wrongful deaths. Our wrongful death attorneys are experienced in helping families seek justice for the unnecessary suffering their families have to endure because of the negligence of another.