Safety Engineer Evaluates Collision Between Train And School Bus

    Safety Engineering Expert This case involves several children who died when a train collided with a school bus. The normal school bus route did not involve crossing over the railroad tracks, but construction on a main municipal road caused traffic to be re-routed over the railroad tracks. The bus had made it part of the way through the crossing when it was struck by the train. As a result of the collision, 3 children died and 2 suffered traumatic brain injuries. The train engineer had blown the whistle at the quarter post but the train’s brakes were never engaged because the engineer believed the bus driver would clear the tracks. The train struck the school bus while traveling below the normal speed limit for that area. An expert in safety engineering with specific experience in train operations was sought to determine if the train engineer deviated from standard procedure.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. What experience do you have working in train operations roles?
    • 2. If a train operator sees a vehicle on the tracks, is it policy for him/her to hit the brakes immediately?

    Expert Witness Response E-118821

    I am a registered professional engineer with experience in assessing the level of safety at rail crossings both prior to and after collisions. I also have experience in the preparation of expert reports and in providing advice to counsel with respect to litigation on railway crossing collisions. During my 18 years with a national railway company, I received formal training and certification in the operating rules. My duties included riding in locomotives while inspecting tracks. As the director of railway safety engineering for the railway safety regulator, I frequently road in locomotives to observe both track and crossing conditions. I have previously provided expert reports in several cases dealing with the timing of brake application prior to crossing collisions.  If a train operator sees a vehicle on the tracks, it is not policy for him/her to hit the brakes immediately.

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