Chesterton Tribune


Conductor sues CSX, claims injuries sustained in January's big derailment

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A CSX conductor is suing the CSX railroad for damages 11 months after the freight train in which he was working was rear-ended by a second train in Jackson Township, in a derailment which—folks may recall—prompted the precautionary evacuation of a square mile around the crash site.

On Nov. 9, Benjamin K. Knipp filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, in Hammond, claiming to have suffered “personal injuries, disability, pain and suffering, medical expenses, wage losses, and other recoverable damages.”

According to the suit, on Jan. 6 Knipp was positioned in the locomotive cab of the lead engine of a westbound train stopped on the tracks just north of C.R. 600N, in the area of C.R. 500E. “Suddenly and without warning” Knipp’s train was rear-ended by a second CSX train and “the force of the impact caused by said collision forced (Knipp) out of his engine seat and caused him to sustain injuries,” the suit alleges.

The suit does not specify those injuries. First-responders at the time told the Chesterton Tribune that no one was seriously injured in the crash, although two were treated at Porter hospital and subsequently released.

Knipp’s suit does not mention it but the collision caused multiple cars to derail across a second, parallel set of tracks on which a third westbound train was traveling. As that third train began to round the curve north from Washington Township into Jackson Township, at a speed of 57 miles per hour, its engineer was unable to stop it in time to avoid hitting the debris field from the first collision. That third train also wrecked. All told, 25 cars were derailed, five of seven locomotives, and 45 intermodal trailers.

Knipp’s suit alleges that CSX was “careless, negligent, and unlawful” in several particulars and “thereby caused in whole or in part” Knipp’s unspecified injuries. More to the point, Knipp claims the following:

•CSX failed to provide him with a reasonably safe place to work, failed to exercise ordinary care to use reasonably safe methods in its train operations, and failed to supervise and monitor the movement of trains when “it knew or should have known and foreseen that a collision of trains would occur.”

•CSX also, Knipp claims, failed to maintain and service the locomotive braking system and its signal system and failed to warn him “when timely warning would have averted injury to him.”

Dunelanders may remember seeing on that Friday in January a plume of smoke visible for roughly five miles, caused when paper products being carried on one of the trains ignited, fueled by spilled locomotive diesel. The Liberty Township Volunteer Fire Department did not clear the scene until some 16 hours later and it took 48 hours to clear one of the two sets of tracks.

Finally, the responders themselves will recall that many of them were afflicted in the week following by a nasty case of gastroenteritis, the result of eating meals at the scene provided by a Valparaiso fast-food restaurant.

January’s derailment was the second in less than two years in Jackson Township. On June 16, 2010, a westbound train derailed in the so-called Suman Valley, north of C.R. 600N and west of C.R. 300E. Fourteen of the train’s 42 cars left the tracks.

No one was injured in the derailment itself but the next day, June 17, a worker with a private contractor was crushed to death when a crane being used to clear the tracks fell on him.



Posted 11/15/2012