Strategies, Challenges, and Answers

Serious Accidents Give Rise To Serious Investigations

The accident happened near one of those towns so small that Google Maps can’t even find it, Miriam, Nevada.  As the Amtrak passenger train approached its crossing of U.S. 95, the railroad’s warning gates descended, the lights started flashing and the train blew its horn.  A truck driver, heading north on the highway, noticed the signals and applied his brakes but failed to stop the truck before it made contact with the side of the train.  The truck driver, the train conductor and four train passengers died and many more were injured either by the impact or in the fire that followed the impact.

The National Transportation Safety Board was immediately charged to investigate this June 24, 2011 accident.  At its website, NTSBntsb.gov, the Board describes itself as follows:

The NTSB is an independent federal agency charged by Congress with investigating every civil aviation accident in the U.S. and significant accidents in other modes of transportation-railroad, highway, marine and pipeline. The NTSB determines the probable cause of each accident investigated and issues safety recommendations aimed at preventing future accidents.

As with every accident that it investigates, the NTSB opened a docket of public records.  If you go to the NTSB Current Investigations, you can find a list of the most serious accidents that the NTSB has been investigating, including pipeline ruptures, train derailments and aviation accidents.  Many accidents investigated do not end up on the national investigations registry and instead are investigated at the regional level. You can find the regional highway accident reports at the NTSB Highway Accident Reports page.  Those reports go back to 1996 with additional reports being added all the time.

By examining the NTSB’s docket, you can identify and download the photos, data, records and other evidence collected in the examination process.  We have attached a sampling of some of the photos taken in the investigation.  As of December 14, 2012, this accident has 269 separate items listed on the docket.

Figure 1, View looking north of US Highway 95 at Grade crossing

Figure 2, View of impact damage and fire damage to the Amtrak

Figure 3, View of impact and fire damage to the passenger rail car.

In September 2012, the NTSB issued an Accident Summary that you can find HERE.

On December 11, 2012, the NTSB held a public meeting about the findings of its investigation and provided a synopsis of its findings, a copy of which can be found HERE.  While the final report is yet to be issued, the NTSB offered recommendations to all involved including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, the Nevada Highway Patrol, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the American Trucking Association and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the Towing and Recovery Association of America, the American Bus Association and the United Motorcoach Association and to John Davis Trucking.

We will soon receive the NTSB’s final report on the June 24, 2011 Miriam, NV accident.  Even before the last papers hit the file, it is easy to see that NTSB’s records and data will be a treasure trove for any attorney, either Plaintiff or Defense in handling the civil suits.

If you have questions about trucking issues, please be sure to contact Mike at Mills & Associates at 702-240-6060×114 or email him at mike@mcmillslaw.com.

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