Engineer settles lawsuit over train wreck

Posted: May 16, 2018 at 11:36 a.m.

FILE PHOTO -- Ron Sparks, chief of the Arkansas Missouri Railroad police, center, speaks to members of his staff as a firefighter carries a piece of emergency equipment after an accident involving an Arkansas & Missouri Railroad train Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014, south of West Fork.

FAYETTEVILLE — A federal lawsuit brought by a former engineer who claimed he was injured in a 2014 train wreck near Brentwood has been settled out of court.

Kevin Buehne, a former engineer with Arkansas & Missouri Railroad, sought money for medical expenses, missed wages, diminished future wages and missed benefits, according to his lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

Terms of the settlement are confidential, according to Steven Groves, Buehne’s attorney.

The lawsuit claimed the railroad company was negligent and poor and unsafe working conditions led to the train wreck that caused his injuries. Buehne suffered injuries to his head and knees and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the lawsuit.

Buehne was the engineer on a work train that hit a stalled passenger train head on 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 were slick, which caused the passenger train to stall and kept the other train from stopping, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report. 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 lawsuit. 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.

Six passengers settled with the company for an undisclosed amount of money in October 2016.

Ron Sparks, the company’s spokesman, said last year the railroad company implemented changes following the wreck. Those changes included adding a second locomotive to all sightseeing trains to increase power, revising qualifications for working on and operating locomotives, implementing 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 Wood can be reached by email at rwood@nwadg.com or on Twitter @NWARDW.

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