An Unavoidable Crash
On October 4, 2018, a Union Pacific train was heading east toward North Platte, Nebraska, when the crew realized there was a problem. The brakes were malfunctioning, and they radioed ahead to let dispatch know what was happening.
Nobody was on the other train, so luckily no one on that train was injured. However, two men lost their lives on the train with the defective brakes.
A Scene of Chaos and Despair
Conductor Benjamin Brozovich had worked for Union Pacific for 20 years before he lost his life in the disaster. As the train he was on rear-ended the stopped train about 18 miles west of Cheyenne, the impact was so strong that 66 trains derailed. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the damages are worth about $2.4 million.
Jason Martinez also lost his life that night, but the scene was so chaotic that his body wasn’t found until the next day. An employee of Union Pacific for 12 years at that time, he was originally thought missing after the accident.
Two other crew members were injured that night, but they were treated at a local hospital and then released.
How Could This Happen?
Trains are normally considered orderly and predictable, and rail workers strive to meet high standards for rail travel. Trains and equipment undergo regular inspections in order to comply with those high standards.
There are data recorders on trains similar to the black boxes on airplanes, and they keep track of important information that will assist the NTSB as it investigates the accident. The data includes information such as the train’s speed, the use of the train’s brakes and the use of the horn. At this time, the NTSB has not completed its investigation but believes that the brakes malfunctioned, as the crew originally reported.
The scene will take a long time to clean up, and in the meantime, the widow of Jason Martinez plans to file a lawsuit.