A 26-year-old Massachusetts woman died when she fell under an Amtrak train at a Westerly, RI station. A safety expert suggests that Amtrak could have prevented her death.
Amtrak is still investigating the accident.
Safety expert says the fall was preventable
A rail safety expert says that, unlike most Amtrak stations, the Westerly station has a low-level platform that requires conductors to lower stairs for passengers instead of just opening the doors to the train. He believes this is a safety hazard.
According to the expert, most stations have high-level platforms that do not require the stairs to be down. Conductors perform a job called “the flagging position” where they stand in the open doorway of the train to watch the train approach or leave the station.
He believes that the conductor who died was leaning on the stairs while performing this maneuver, which caused her to lose her balance and fall beneath the train. He notes that even without the stairs, standing in the open doorway of a moving train is dangerous.
Amtrak is still investigating the accident. If Amtrak’s failure to implement proper safety standards and equipment caused the death of the conductor, the company could be liable for damages.
The Federal Employers’ Liability Act protects employees of railroads. Unlike typical workers’ compensation, workers covered by FELA retain their right to compensation that is normally available through personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits. However, they must prove that the railroad or train company was negligent and that the negligence of the company caused the injuries or death of the employee.