MENDON, Mo. — The chief elected official in the Missouri county where an Amtrak train slammed into a dump truck said Tuesday that residents and county leaders have been pushing for a safety upgrade at the railroad crossing for nearly three years. Meanwhile, the toll from the accident rose to four deaths and 150 injuries.
A day after the deadly crash on Monday, the Missouri State Highway Patrol said people were taken to 10 hospitals with injuries ranging from minor to serious. By Tuesday afternoon, at least 15 people remained hospitalized. The dead — three passengers and the truck driver — have not been identified.
Amtrak’s Southwest Chief was traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago when it struck the rear of the truck. Two locomotives and eight cars derailed. Amtrak officials said about 275 passengers and 12 crew members were aboard.
National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Jennifer L. Homendy said at a news conference that the truck was owned by MS Contracting of Brookfield, Missouri, and was transporting material to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project nearby.
Homendy said investigators will download recorder information to determine the speed of the train, when the horn was blown and if the emergency brake was deployed. She said some of that information could be released as early as Wednesday. The speed limit at the crossing is 90 mph.
The crossing in a rural area near Mendon in western Missouri has no lights or other signals to warn of an approaching train.
Chariton County Presiding Commissioner Evan Emmerich said in an email to The Associated Press that resident Mike Spencer brought his concerns about the crossing to a 2019 commission meeting. He was told to contact the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Railroad Safety division. A week later, commissioners spoke with officials from the state agency and were told “it is on their plans to repair,” Emmerich said.
After that, Emmerich cited other efforts by the commission. They included a March 2021 meeting with a state Railroad Safety division engineer at the crossing site; an email sent to the Railroad Safety division on May 23 to address concerns about visibility at the crossing; and a May 31 call to BNSF Railway, which owns the track, “to express our concerns with the visibility issue” at the crossing.
In January, the Missouri Department of Transportation submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration its “State Freight & Rail Plan” plan. It included a proposal to install lights and gates, along with roadway improvements.