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March 19, 2002 - Suit Filed in Amtrak Derailment

March 19, 2002 - Suit Filed in Amtrak Derailment

Attorneys for the family of a Colorado woman killed in an Amtrak train derailment last year filed suit Monday, alleging the train jumped the tracks because a defective piece of scrap rail was used to repair the section of track where the derailment occurred.

The suit was filed in federal court against Amtrak, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., the BNSF Railway Co. and Herzog Contracting Corp.

Stella Riehl, 69, died when the California Zephyr derailed March 17, 2001, at Nodaway, Iowa, on a section of track owned by the Burlington Northern.

"Amtrak and Burlington Northern Santa Fe had specific rules they were to follow in order to operate safely but they didn't and as a result Stella Riehl died," attorney Donald Nolan said.

The suit was filed after the National Transportation Safety Board issued its final report on the accident last week, citing defective rail as the cause.

Nolan noted, however, the board failed to address the fact the section of track where the train derailed had been replaced 32 days before the crash with rail known to be defective.

"We have reason to believe that defective scrap rail was carelessly used to repair the section of track where the train derailed. There seemed to be no system to prevent this horrendous mistake from happening."

"If we knew then what we know now about the rail system, our mother never would have been on that train," Riehl's son, Charlie Romstad, said. "It is likely that there are miles and miles of defective track out there and the next disaster is around the corner. I want answers and public needs to know."

Amtrak's California Zephyr was traveling from Chicago to Emerville, Calif., with 241 passengers and 16 crewmembers when it jumped the tracks. Ninety-six passengers were injured.

The suit seeks unspecified damages.

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