An attorney for a passenger on the Amtrak train that derailed last year near DuPont, Wash., filed a claim Thursday, saying there was a known electrical problem prior to the train's departure. Specifically, the claim states an electrical problem prevented the rear locomotive from helping with braking.
The claim was filed on behalf of Rudy Wetzel. The 81-year-old was hospitalized after Amtrak Cascades 501 derailed and crashed onto Interstate 5 on December 18, 2017. Three people were killed and dozens were injured in the crash.
The attorney, citing information from a whistleblower, said the train had been released for travel "knowing it had experienced an electrical system failure that day, and further that the rear locomotive unit electrical linkage was not connected or properly linked, which made the rear unit unavailable for additional braking effect, and that at the time of the crash the rear unit likely acted to push into the rear passenger cars and cause further harm to the train and occupants."
Wetzel told reporters on Thursday that he used to be able to pretty active, but "now I can waddle, I can't really walk fast" after suffering two broken vertebrae, and suffering severe trauma on his lower stomach.
The initial investigation found the train was going 50 mph over the suggested speed limit moments before it reached the spot where it derailed. Amtrak said Positive Train Control — technology that could have slowed or stopped the train automatically— wasn’t in use on this stretch of track. That aspect was also mentioned in the claim for Wetzel.
Amtrak said it would not comment on the pending litigation.
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