Jack Mabee, 17, of Oxnard, died in a train accident in Ventura when an Amtrak Surfliner train hit the car in which he was riding. According to an article in the Ventura County Star, Mabee was riding in the front passenger seat of a sedan traveling on a farm road near Victoria Avenue and Olivas Park Drive when the driver, 18-year-old Jordan Hernandez of Oxnard, drove onto a railroad crossing and into the path of the Amtrak train.
California Highway Patrol officials said the train sheared the car in two. Mabee died at the scene and Hernandez was admitted to an area hospital with major injuries to his head and torso. The railway crossing apparently had signs, but did not have a mechanical cross arm or flashing lights.
My heart goes out to the families of both Mabee and Hernandez. Please keep them in your prayers.
U.S. courts have traditionally upheld that railroads have a general duty for the safety of the motoring public at grade crossings. Most drivers are not used to seeing or waiting for trains. So they tend to expect the absence of a train as opposed to the presence of a train.
Based upon the news reports, I cannot figure this one out. Somehow this young driver must not have been aware of the train coming or did not appreciate its speed and proximity to his vehicle. The railroad crossing reportedly has warning signs but no mechanical arms or flashing lights. The news reports did not mention if there had been previous accidents at this crossing.
In railroad crossing accident lawsuits the railroad companies will argue that they have no duty to install and maintain adequate warning devices at railroad crossings. The railroads are very successful with this argument citing various federal regulations, especially in federal courts. Various statutes place primary responsibility for crossing safety with local governmental entities rather than the railroad companies but these statutes do not relive railroads of all responsibility for safety at crossings.
Railroads have a common-law duty to provide and adequately maintain warnings at railroad crossings. While final authority for the installation of particular safety devices at grade crossings has long rested with state and local governments, this allocation of authority apparently does not relieve the railroads of their duty to take all reasonable precautions to maintain grade crossing safety . . .. [Quoting the U.S. Supreme Court]
The families of Mabee and Hernandez would be well advised to retain an experienced Ventura railroad accident attorney who will help investigate what occurred at that railway crossing and determine if there is any fault on the part of the railroad or local governmental agencies.