Amtrak sues Kansas feed yard over train derailment

WICHITA, Kan.-- Amtrak has filed a federal lawsuit against a southwest Kansas feed yard, accusing it of gross negligence in relation to a train derailment that injured 28 passengers last month.

In the suit filed Friday by Amtrak and BNSF, the plaintiffs allege Cimarron Crossing Feeders failed to notify the railroad or law enforcement after one of the company's trucks slammed into the railroad road bed and displaced the tracks by more than a foot.

The train carrying 131 passengers and 14 crew was travelling from Los Angeles to Chicago when it derailed shortly after midnight along a straight stretch of tracks in flat farmland near Cimarron, a small community about 160 miles west of Wichita. Eight cars derailed and four of them ended up on their sides.

The lawsuit claims the truck was being loaded with grain when Cimarron's employees left it unattended on March 13, out of gear and without any brakes applied. It rolled downhill, crossed over U.S. 50 and slammed into the tracks.

Passenger Daniel Szczerba described the chaos for CBS affiliate KWCH.

"All the lights went out, it was dark," Szczerba said. "People traveling in groups (of) four or five got thrown around the car as it turned over and lost people as they were trying to get out of the emergency exits."

Shortly after midnight on March 14, an eastbound Amtrak train hit the damaged tracks and eight passenger cars derailed near Cimarron, about 20 miles west of Dodge City.

A preliminary report released last week by the National Transportation Safety Board estimated damage from the derailment at $1.4 million.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Wichita, seeks an amount in excess of $75,000. It also requests a jury trial in Wichita.

Officials with Cimarron Crossing Feeders didn't immediately return a phone call Sunday seeking comment.