A 26-year-old woman was killed in a train-car accident in Chicago in April. Dance teacher Katie Lunn was struck in her SUV when the warning lights and bells failed to engage to signal an oncoming train.
It appears that the train crew that was working on the track the day before accidentally shut off the warning lights system, resulting in the failure. The accident is believed to be caused by human error, which underscores the need for multiple levels of quality control in U.S. train systems.
Estimates of train-vehicle collisions in the United States indicate that about 5,800 such accidents occur annually, and more than half involve non-existent or malfunctioning safety devices.
The train crash involving Katie Lunn is currently under investigation by several agencies, led by the Federal Railroad Administration, and it is not yet clear what actions will be taken. It is entirely possible that the train company will receive a fine for its workers’ negligence, even though the warning signals on the train itself were in working order.
Katie Lunn’s family may also decide to pursue civil action against the train company or other involved parties. Wrongful death lawsuits are common in cases such as these, when negligence can be easily substantiated through eye-witness testimony and the investigation.
To avoid future train-car accidents associated with this intersection, a flagman is now stationed at the train crossing and the trains that use this particular section of track have been given a slow-down order. The problem, of course, is that train-car accidents can occur anywhere at highway or road crossings. The unfortunate death of Katie Lunn may inspire more efficient safety protocol for warning signals and other measures through federal legislation.