Two of the lawsuits were filed by family members of Peggy Hoffman and Kenneth Hoffman, a couple who died at the scene of the March 7 crash. Two additional lawsuits have been filed by five surviving passengers of the collision.
The crash happened when a tour bus carrying mostly seniors from the Bastrop Senior Center near Austin became stuck on the tracks at a railroad crossing in downtown Biloxi. By the time the bus driver realized the bus would not become dislodged from the track, a CSX freight train appeared blowing its horn.
The driver reportedly began evacuating the bus from both the front and the back, but some passengers were unable to get off in time. Four people were killed and 35 of the 49 passengers were hospitalized. Twelve of the passengers remain in the hospital, some of whom are in critical condition.
The railroad crossing where the collision took place has been a hazard for decades because of its high tracks and low ground clearance. The pavement drops steeply from both sides of the elevated track, making it easy for some vehicles to get hung up on the tracks.
Sixteen train-and-vehicle collisions have occurred at the same Main Street crossing since 1976, three of them deadly. The history of crashes at the crossing leaves many locals to wonder why the tracks aren’t leveled off.
According to the Statesman, the Hoffman lawsuits allege the bus driver was negligent because he failed to heed the “Low Ground Clearance” warning sign at the crossing. The lawsuits also allege the bus company, Echo Transportation, was negligent for employing the driver. Additionally, the suit names CSX Transportation Inc. as a defendant, claiming the railroad company fails to adequately maintain the roadway and warn drivers of “ultra hazardous conditions.”
A lawyer for the plaintiffs told the Statesman that he would be reviewing video recordings and black box data from the train and bus once the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) completes its investigation. Last week, NTSB investigators said that the bus was not on its planned route when it crossed the dangerous Main Street intersection but offered few other details.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs told the Statesman that the victims and their families “have every right to be completely upset. They have every right to be outraged. And they have every right to seek justice to make sure that some other family” doesn’t get caught in the path of freight train at the Main Street intersection.
Source: The Statesman