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Investigators Say Crossing Arms Were Working During Fatal Car-Train Wreck

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Officials investigating a fatal car-train collision in Covina, which took the lives of a 53-year-old man and his 10-year-old niece and left his 12-year-old daughter in critical condition, have ruled that the crossing arms at that site were all functioning properly.

Contradicting reports surfaced after this collision, which happened the afternoon of June 17. According to an article posted on KNBC’s Web site, witnesses saw that the arm at the crossing never came down. Those accounts clashed with initial accounts that the man may have been trying to make it across the tracks before the Metrolink train went through. Earl Brown, the driver of the Mitsubishi Galant and his 10-year-old niece, Raven Elizabeth Smith, both of Covina, were killed, officials said.

The Metrolink train had 150 passengers aboard and fortunately no one was hurt. The train, which was traveling from Union Station to Riverside, was reportedly traveling at 40 mph when it entered the crossing where the accident occurred. The collision pushed the car about 75 feet from where it was hit, according to the KNBC report. All three occupants of the car were wearing their seatbelts, officials said.

The newest “finding” in this case raises an interesting point. Investigators say the railroad crossing arms were functioning properly at the time of the collision. But witnesses say they never saw the gate come down. Also, Brown’s brother-in-law, Stanley Smith, tells reporters that Brown had no reason to outrun the gates. He had the kids with him. He was on his way back from church and not even half a mile from his house. It simply doesn’t make sense.

But then what would you expect the railroad to say? That their crossing arms were faulty and not working? That they don’t inspect or maintain them well enough and often enough? Of course, people are going to think, ‘Well, if they’ve investigated it and decided the crossing arms are working properly, then they must be working properly.” The eyewitnesses were probably imagining that the arms didn’t come down.

As attorneys who have represented victims of train accidents, we know that engineer negligence, inadequate rail maintenance and unsafe operators can be responsible for such accidents. Denying them is only more dangerous because it increases the possibility of such tragedies happening yet again at a different crossing in another part of California or the country.

At Bisnar Chase, we have taken it on ourselves to hold these agencies accountable by getting to the bottom of the real story instead of a bunch of officials telling folks that they just had an optical illusion. Call me, John Bisnar at 1-800-259-6373, for a discussion of your rights and options regarding a train accident or any type of injury accident.

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