One child died, another seriously injured after Union Pacific train hits school bus
Chip Brooker of Brooker Law, PLLC represents the plaintiffs in a case against Union Pacific Railroad Company, train conductor, Robert Ray, train engineer, Roger Johnson, the Athens Independent School District, and bus driver, John Franklin Stevens based on a fatal collision between a Union Pacific train and a school bus that occurred January 25, 2019. Below are key updates regarding the train-bus accident as we pursue damages over $1 million.
August ’19: Filing Suit
Plaintiffs’ trial lawyer Chip Brooker of Brooker Law, PLLC in Dallas filed a wrongful death and personal injury lawsuit on behalf of the families of a child who died and another who was seriously injured when a Union Pacific Railroad Company train hit their school bus in Athens, Texas, on January 25, 2019.
The Plaintiffs filed the lawsuit against Omaha, Nebraska-based Union Pacific Railroad Company, the train operators, the Athens Independent School District, and the bus driver. The case is ongoing in the 173rd District County in Henderson County, Texas.
“My hope is that this lawsuit forces Union Pacific to address dangerous, unguarded crossings like the one on Wofford Street in Athens,” says Mr. Brooker. “This is actually the third time that a train has collided with a vehicle at this crossing. Unfortunately, the railroad did not learn its lesson the first two times. Maybe this lawsuit—and the deaths and catastrophic injuries sustained by the children involved—will finally get Union Pacific’s attention and prompt them to make this crossing safe.”
July ’19: Bus Driver Arraigned in Criminal Court
The arraignment for bus driver John Stevens took place on July 3, 2019. The case is currently going through pretrial motions, and the parties have not set a trial date.
Though Stevens’ criminal case is separate from the personal injury and wrongful death lawsuit, it can impact the families’ civil claim. If Stevens is convicted, we can use this as evidence in the negligence case against him and his employer.
June ’19: Bus Driver Indicted on Felony Charges
John Franklin Stevens, 78, was the bus driver involved in the train accident. District Attorney Mark Hall released a statement on June 3, 2019, stating a Henderson County Grand Jury indicted Stevens for injury to a child causing serious bodily injury and manslaughter/criminally negligent homicide—both are felonies. The case was assigned to the 392nd Judicial District Court, and the judge set bond at $5,000 per indictment.
April ’19: FRA Finds Bus Driver’s Inattentiveness to Blame
The FRA released its final report on the collision. It determined the probable cause of the accident was “highway user inattentiveness” and “highway user misjudgment under normal weather and traffic conditions.”
The FRA report noted the available sight distance was approximately 420 ft from the crossing, and the clearing sight distance was 961 at the crossing. These distances allowed a highway user to see if a train was approaching and either cross the track safely or remain stopped. In this case, the bus driver stopped the bus approximately 15 ft from the crossing before moving forward at about 3 mph. The train’s speed was 38 mph in a maximum speed zone of 40 mph and was in the final 300 ft approaching the crossing. The conductor and engineer saw the bus come onto the crossing and applied the air brakes.
The Track Image Recorder onboard the train and the internal cameras on the bus recorded the bus’s brief stop. The train’s horn was audible on the bus’s camera footage and was heard by the bus passengers, who immediately attempted to warn the bus driver of the approaching train.
January ‘19: Union Pacific Train Collides with Athens’ School Bus
On January 25, 2019, a Union Pacific Railroad Company freight train, moving westbound, collided with an Athens Independent School District school bus at a public highway-rail grade crossing. The school bus was driving south on Wofford Street. The train collided with the bus on the driver’s side and pushed the bus about 1,458 ft before coming to a stop west of Murchison Street.
The Texas Department of Public Safety, Athens Police Department, and Henderson EMS and Fire Department responded to the collision. A male passenger, 13, was ejected from the rear emergency door of the bus and fatally injured. A female passenger, 9, was airlifted to the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, for serious injuries. The bus driver was treated at Athens Hospital for minor injuries and released. None of the train crew suffered injuries.
The FRA sent five investigators from the Operating Practices, Signal & Train Control, and Grade Crossing & Trespasser Prevention disciplines to coordinate with local authorities and investigate the cause of the crash.
Brooker Law Focuses on Helping Injured Individuals and Families
Brooker Law, PLLC, represents individuals and families nationwide in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases involving dangerous and defective products, trucking and transportation crashes, explosions and burns, on-the-job injuries, sexual assault, and professional negligence among other claims.
The firm has experience handling cases involving traumatic brain injuries, amputations, burns, and paralysis, including paraplegia and quadriplegia. Brooker Law also represents individuals and businesses in complex business disputes involving claims of fraud, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, tortious interference, and other business torts.
You can view the Plaintiff’s Complaint.
You can view the Federal Railroad Administration’s Report.