Former employee sues railroad over injuries
FAYETTEVILLE — A former employee says poor and unsafe working conditions at the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad led to a 2014 train wreck that caused his injuries, according to a federal lawsuit.
Kevin Buehne, a former engineer, seeks money for medical expenses, missed wages, diminished future wages and missed benefits, according to his legal complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court.
The lawsuit claims the railroad company was negligent.
“There were a variety of things (A&M) just didn’t get right,” said Steven Groves, Buehne’s attorney. “And, they had a system in place that was unsafe.”
The lawsuit doesn’t list how much money Buehne wants. His injuries included his head, knees and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the lawsuit.
Groves said the jury will decide how much money Buehne should get.
The lawsuit is at least the second against the railroad over the wreck. Six passengers settled with the company for an undisclosed amount of money in October 2016, said Sean Keith, a Rogers attorney who represented the passengers.
Ron Sparks, the company’s spokesman, said Wednesday he had no comment about the newest lawsuit. He didn’t respond Thursday to a follow-up query.
The company hasn’t yet been served with the lawsuit, Groves said.
Buehne was the engineer on a work train that hit a stalled passenger train headon on Oct. 16, 2014. All 39 passengers and four members of the crew from the two trains were taken to hospitals. The injuries were described at the time as not life-threatening.
The rails were covered with leaves and slick, which caused the passenger train to stall and kept the other train from stopping, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report released last month. The trains collided at 24 mph.
Other factors contributing to the wreck included patchy communications, violation of safety regulations and a partly bypassed system for spreading sand on the rails automatically in low-traction situations for the assisting train, according to the report.
The work train also was traveling too fast, the report shows.
The company didn’t give employees enough rest, didn’t properly dispatch trains and failed to provide “necessary sight distance for safe operation of locomotives,” according to the suit. One of the trains also didn’t have a “properly functioning braking system,” and both trains didn’t have “properly working radios,” according to the lawsuit.
Sparks said last month the railroad company has implemented changes in the wake of the wreck. Those changes included adding a second locomotive to all sightseeing trains to increase power, revising qualifications for working on and operating locomotives, putting in new record-keeping to track crew hours, rewriting rules for dispatchers and tightening procedures for assisting stalled trains.
The company also is installing an improved radio system, Sparks said.
Ron Sparks (center), chief of the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad police, speaks to members of his staff as a firefighter carries a piece of emergency equipment after an accident involving an A&M train Oct. 16, 2014, south of West Fork.