Attorney speaks out for railroad safety after fatal crash

MCMINN COUNTY, Tenn. (WDEF) — An attorney who specializes in railroad litigation is speaking out after a deadly train-car crash in McMinn County.

When you drive over railroad tracks, sometimes you’ll see crossing arms and flashing lights. Attorney Pamela Rymer O’Dwyer thinks railroad safety is very important.

“I have worked in railroad litigation even taking part in three cases that were at the United States Supreme Court on the issues that would be involved in pretty much any railroad crossing death case,” O’Dwyer said.

She was in McMinn County on Thursday and stopped by the scene of a fatal car train crash that claimed the lives of three people.
According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, it was on private property. They say there were no crossing arms, but there was a stop sign.

“All private crossing leave a gap in the safety. Because if the owner of the property does not know about railroad safety and they have an agreement with the railroad that they are responsible, then someone hasn’t shared information with them that would make safety possible,” O’Dwyer said.

She says something must change.

“This is a travesty that we as the public must address and stand up to it and do something about it as soon as possible before the next triple fatality,” O’Dwyer said.

She feels all crossings should be uniform.

“The best way to fill those gaps is lights and gates at every crossing.”

Right now she is thinking of the victims in Thursday’s crash.

“My heart goes out to the people who had no idea that they had made a right turn into the railroad reaper,” she said.

In a statement, Norfolk Southern officials expressed condolences to the family. They say they do not make the decisions about warning devices at crossings. They say on public roads it is up to the state DOT, and on private roads it is up to the property owner.
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