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Fatal Train Crash

Rescue workers respond to a fatal collision near the corner of Magnolia and Glover streets on May 13, 2011. The estate of the woman killed in the crash has settled a lawsuit with the train company and state.

Norfolk Southern and South Carolina have settled a lawsuit with the estate of a woman killed by a train in May 2011.

The estate of Susan Weatherford received a $155,000 settlement for survival and wrongful death actions against Norfolk Southern and the state Department of Transportation, according to Orangeburg County Court records. The case was settled last month.

Weatherford died on May 13, 2011. She was a passenger in a vehicle that was struck by a Norfolk Southern train at the Sellers Avenue crossing in Orangeburg.

Under the settlement, Norfolk Southern will pay $95,000 and SCDOT will pay $60,000.

The financial settlement ends the case, according to court records.

"We are glad we were able to obtain a settlement for this family that lost a loved one," said attorney William Barnes III, who represented the estate.

Paul Tecklenburg, attorney for Norfolk Southern, could not be reached for comment about the settlement.

Weatherford’s estate claimed that Norfolk Southern and SCDOT maintained and operated “a dangerous crossing.”

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“The South Carolina Department of Transportation has a duty to provide safe roads and streets for the traveling public,” the lawsuit stated. “Both Norfolk Southern and the South Carolina Department of Transportation had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition at Sellers Avenue crossing, but both failed to take steps to correct this dangerous situation.”

Authorities have said that shortly after 11 a.m. that day, Weatherford’s 20-year-old grandson Jeremy Weatherford drove around a car that had stopped for the oncoming train. The lawsuit claimed that the car in front stopped suddenly, forcing Jeremy Weatherford to swerve to miss it.

The car became stuck on the tracks. The grandson got out of the car before the train hit it, but his grandmother did not. She was 82.

The lawsuit claimed both Norfolk Southern and SCDOT failed to warn of the hazards at the intersection and that state laws were violated pertaining to railroad line maintenance, construction or safety measures. Attorneys for Weatherford also said the construction of the train tracks was faulty, causing the vehicle to get stuck on the tracks.

Norfolk Southern said the accident was due to negligence on the part of Weatherford’s driver and not the train company, and that the train tracks and intersection are adequately secured.

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Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD

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Staff Writer

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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