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Nevada Truck-Amtrak Collision Under Investigation by NTSB

A multi-fatality accident involving an Amtrak passenger train and a tractor-trailer truck remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), according to a report from the Lahontan Valley News. On June 24, 2011, Amtrak's westbound California Zephyr, en route from Chicago to the San Francisco Bay area, collided with a tractor-trailer at a grade crossing in Churchill County, Nev. The double-decker passenger train was carrying 204 passengers and 14 crew members. The driver of the tractor-trailer, a train conductor, and four passengers were killed in the accident. Approximately 75 people were treated for injuries at local hospitals.

Train Traveling Within Speed Limit

The train was traveling at a speed of 78 mph at the time of the accident. The track speed limit for the area was 80 mph, according to sources. The train's engineer applied the emergency brakes, but the tractor-trailer struck two cars of the train. Officials noted that the tractor-trailer skidded the length of a football field before the fiery collision.

Crossing Gates Operating Properly

According to the NTSB's preliminary report, the railroad crossing was equipped with gates and flashing red lights. The train engineer was also sounding the train's horn as a further warning. The truck's skid marks began 320 feet from the crossing and crossed into the oncoming lane of traffic before reaching the crossing.

Investigation Likely to Continue for Months

The NTSB has completed its on-scene investigation and is now analyzing the evidence according to an NTSB spokesperson. Pieces of the truck and the locomotive's engine control module are in Washington, D.C., being examined. The agency is also obtaining a toxicology report and the medical records of the tractor-trailer driver in order to determine his physical condition at the time of the accident. The public docket, which will contain all of the evidence that the NTSB compiles, is not expected to be completed for four to six months.

Seven Lawsuits Have Been Filed

Lawsuits are now pending from seven different plaintiffs. The trucking company has sued Amtrak and the Union Pacific Railroad Company, alleging that they inadequately warned motorists crossing the tracks. The plaintiffs in the remaining lawsuits are likely the family members of the deceased passengers and crew, along with Amtrak and Union Pacific.