According to data from the Federal Railroad Administration, over the last five years more than 74 fatalities have occurred along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks. As well, at least 16 of these fatalities have occurred over the last 12 months.
A recent case involves a bicyclist who was struck and killed Jan. 17 by a Brightline train on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks in Boynton Beach, according to police. It is the second fatality involving a Brightline train and third train fatality within just one week on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks.
According to Stephanie Slater, Boynton Beach police spokeswoman, the tragedy occurred east of downtown Boynton Beach.
Sen. Marco Rubio, reacting to the incident, sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao the day after the accident requesting her cooperation with local and state officials to monitor cautionary and preventive measures around the railroad.
Just one week prior, on Jan. 10 at 7:40 PM, a 73-year-old woman from Berea Ohio, Linda Short, was killed after driving her vehicle onto the Florida East Coast tracks in Delray Beach. According to Delray Beach police, her car was in the path of an oncoming freight train.
According to police, Melissa Lavell, 32, lost her life two days later in Boynton Beach after she apparently attempted to beat a Brightline passenger train coming down the tracks after the guard rails were lowered.
Since Brightline began testing its high-speed passenger train system last summer, there have been four deaths involving the passenger railroad.
Safety concerns and criticism
Although Brightline is popular in Brevard County and other parts of South Florida, it has encountered criticism in other parts of the state.
For instance, state Sen. Debbie Mayfield (R), an opponent of rail expansion, raised questions about the passenger railroad commitment to public safety. In a statement, Mayfield said, “My question to the corporate big wigs at Brightline is this: How many lives must be lost before you own up to your corporate responsibility?”
The State Senator has sponsored a bill that would subject Brightline to some regulatory oversight by the Florida Department of Transportation. The proposed legislation referred to as the Florida High-Speed Passenger Rail Safety Act would create high-speed passenger rail minimum safety standards. If it became law, railroad companies would be required to build and maintain fencing, add remote monitoring technology to all automatic public railroad highway grade crossing warning systems, and realign crossing gates.
Mayfield said, “These deaths are tragic and unacceptable … I believe we must do everything possible to ensure public safety and to minimize the risk of further tragedy.”
After Ms. Lavell lost her life, the passenger railroad emphasized the need for drivers and pedestrians to obey all railroad safety rules. A spokeswoman for the company said in a statement, “Safety is Brightline’s highest priority, which is evident from the numerous additional infrastructure improvements that have been installed along the FEC Railway corridor to the educational and awareness campaigns currently underway.”
The Brightline statement also said, “Education and enforcement are vital, and we implore the public to abide by the rules and laws in place designed to keep them safe around active railroads.”
Sen. Mayfield as well as State Representative Erin Grall expressed their concern about Brightline’s passenger trains speeding through a section of rail that consist of around 350 crossings. They believe the railroad should exercise total responsibility for necessary upgrades pertaining to its operational safety.
Mass transit accidents involving passenger trains can produce catastrophic results and injuries. It’s important for any responsible party to be held accountable for any negligence that led to the tragedy. If you have gone through a serious train or other type of mass transit accident, and have suffered injuries as a result, you need a talented and aggressive advocate fight on your behalf. Our experienced Fort Lauderdale attorneys are here to help you obtain the compensation you deserve. To arrange a free consultation, call us at 1-800-TELL-SAM or fill out our contact form.