As the South Carolina community is still recovering from the February 4th train collision in Cayce, many are recalling the 2005 train disaster in Graniteville, South Carolina. Eerily similar in terms of causation, both accidents appear to have resulted from the misalignment of a simple switch. But even the simplest of mistakes can change lives forever.
At approximately 2:39 am on January 6, 2005, Norfolk-Southern Train 192 was traveling north from Augusta, GA to Columbia South Carolina. Train 192 consisted of 2 locomotives, 25 loaded cars, and 17 empty cars. Of the 25 loaded cars, 3 contained chlorine. The ninth car, UTLX 900270 contained approximately 90 tons of the deadly chemical.
As the train approached the Avondale Mills plant in Graniteville, it was travelling 49 miles per hour. Unbeknownst to the engineer, the switch connecting the main rail line to the Avondale Mills industry spur line was misaligned and directed the speeding train off of the main line. Parked on the Avondale Mills industry spur was another train and the locomotives on Train 192 slammed into the back of these stationary cars.
Cars tumbled off of the tracks and scattered across the ground. Car UTLX 900270 was punctured, and a poison chlorine gas cloud began spreading through the neighborhood. The density of the gas—approximately 2.5 times greater than air—caused it to hover close to the ground as it traveled into the Avondale Mills plant and nearby homes.
The strong oxidizing effects of the chlorine quickly began to wreak havoc throughout Graniteville. The poison caused corrosive tissue damage to those nearby. Nine people perished, 554 were injured, and 5,000 citizens were forced to evacuate their homes.
In addition to the terrible casualties, the train collision produced an avalanche of legal proceedings ranging from workers’ compensation claims from those injured within the Avondale Mills plant to lawsuits on behalf of residents killed or injured in nearby homes. Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. attorneys Mark Chappell and Mark Arden represented many of those injured.
Train accidents raise particularly complex legal issues as those injured are forced to resort to a confusing mix of state and federal law. Mark Chappell was appointed “liaison counsel” for all cases pending in federal court and was charged with the responsibility of coordinating the litigation of hundreds of claims.
It must also be noted that the injuries suffered by our former clients in the Graniteville disaster and those in yesterday’s Cayce train wreck are not limited to physical harm. The psychological trauma of being jolted awake in the middle of the night—whether by a nearby collision or a collision on the train in which you are riding—is real, to say the least. Becoming a member of a “mass casualty” often causes pain that requires extensive counseling to heal.
If you or your loved ones have been injured in a train accident, our Columbia train accident lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. will assist you every step of the way. You may schedule a free consultation by calling 803-929-3600 or 866-881-8623 or contact us online. With offices located throughout South Carolina, we serve clients in Lexington County, Richland County, Sumter County, Aiken County, Florence County, Lancaster County, York County, Orangeburg County, Kershaw County, and Newberry County, including those in towns of Columbia, Lexington, Irmo, Chapin, Rock Hill, Aiken, Sumter, Newberry, Florence, and Spartanburg.