Two passengers who were traveling on the Metro-North train that derailed just outside of Manhattan this weekend have filed a notice of claim against the railroad.
The move is the first step in lawsuits that seek damages tied to the accident, according to CNN. Four people perished in the crash. Another 67 were injured, some seriously.
Retired Army colonel and dentist, Denise Williams alleges that she suffered fractures to her spine, collarbone, and ribs and was trapped inside an overturned train car for about one hour, according to her attorney. The lawsuit will accuse the commuter rail—not the train engineer—of negligence because negligence claims must be filed against the railroad and cannot legally be filed against the engineer, who has admitted to nodding off when the train sped into a sharp curve, according to CNN.
Edward Russell was seriously injured in the crash and will be asking for punitive damages in the amount of $10 million, according to his notice of claim. The notice, wrote CNN, cites “loss of earnings,” “inability to work,” and “post traumatic stress” as part of the damage he sustained from his injuries. His attorney said that the track curve that was at the site of the accident has long been recognized as dangerous, noting that there were four other incidents in the past year, alone.
This claim accuses the MTA, Metro North, and the City and the State of New York of negligence “in allowing the train to run at a place where there is a sharp curve in the terrain, (and) in failing to change the design of the tracks when another incident had occurred similar to the incident herein several months previously,” among other things, according to CNN.
MTA spokesman, Salvatore Arena, said that, in 2009, the agency began work on installing positive train controls on both the Long Island Rail Road and the Metro-North Railroad and had budgeted close to $600 million for installation of the project, which is expected to cost $900 million, according to CNN. Arena said that making the 2015 deadline is expected to be challenging because the technology is still being developed, has not been tested, and has not been proven on railroads lines of the size of the Metro-North and LIRR. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member Earl Weener said that it is possible that this control could have prevented a derailment that involved a high-speed train.
Meanwhile, a union representative advised CNN that the train engineer apparently “was nodding off and caught himself too late” just before the derailment. The NTSB cited those comments as the violation. Union representative, Anthony Bottalico, told CNN that engineer William Rockefeller Jr. recognizes his responsibility in the deadly derailment. “I think most people are leaning towards human error,” Bottalico said. Rockefeller’s attorney is describing what occurred with his client as “highway hypnosis.” According to Rockefeller Jr.’s attorney, the engineer had a full night’s sleep and has no disciplinary record. He also said that Rockefeller Jr. never blamed the accident on faulty brakes.
The Metro-North commuter train was traveling at high speeds as it went into a curve just before jumping the tracks. At the 30 mile-per-hour (mph) curve, the train was speeding at 82 mph, according to initial information, the NTSB just said, according to a prior FoxNews report.
The station is located just where the Hudson and Harlem rivers meet at a sharp, 30 mph, bend. The locomotive fell, bringing some of is seven cars with it and dumping some cars just inches from the rivers, noted FoxNews. Two data recorders and some “low quality” surveillance footage were collected and are being examined, said Weener.
Ahn Kisook, 35, of Queens, New York; Donna L. Smith, 54, of Newburgh, NY; James G. Lovell, 58, of Cold Spring, NY; and James M. Ferrari, 59, of Montrose, NY, died in the what is now considered to be the deadliest crash in the system’s history, according to the MTA Police Department. Three of those who died Sunday were found outside the train; one was inside, authorities said. Autopsies are underway, according to The New York Times.