An Amtrak Service Attendant who helped evacuate passengers from a burning train car after the deadly June 24 crash in the Nevada desert has filed a lawsuit against her employer. Plaintiff Lana Dickerson, 26, of Worth, Illinois, alleges that she and other passengers’ escape from the smoldering wreckage was hindered when they were blocked by a locked baggage car door.
According to the lawsuit, the obstacle forced Ms. Dickerson, who has worked for Amtrak since 2009, to turn around and lead surviving passengers back into the wreckage past the dead bodies of a coworker and other passengers with whom she had been in contact just moments before. Ms. Dickerson claims that by doubling back through the train, she also suffered from “major smoke exposure.”
Not able to escape through the baggage car, she and the surviving passengers had to jump about 15 feet out of a window to the rocky rail bed. Ms. Dickerson was eventually airlifted to a nearby hospital and treated for injuries to her head, eye, legs, hands, and spine.
Ms. Dickerson’s lawsuit is the first involving the Reno crash to name Amtrak as a defendant. Alexandra Curtis of Evanston, Illinois, another Amtrak attendant harmed in the crash, is suing John Davis Trucking Co. of battle Mountain, Nevada, which owned the truck that collided with the train. The John Davis Trucking Company also employed the driver who was killed in the crash, Lawrence Valli, 43, of Winnemucca, Nevada, who for reasons not yet known crashed through the closed crossing gate and hit the train broadside.
Ms. Dickerson’s lawsuit also names the John Davis Trucking Co. as a defendant. The Amtrak Zephyr train was nearing the final stretch of its Chicago-San Francisco route when Mr. Valli’s truck crashed into the side of it.
According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records, the John Davis Trucking Co. has been cited for 17 safety violations, including one for driving with bald tires that warranted taking the vehicle out of service. The company also received citations for unsafe driving, defective and missing springs, and a number of other violations. The company’s trucks had been involved in two other crashes in the last couple of years. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.