Skip to Main Content
Railroad News

Dozens Injured After Amtrak Train Derails in Western Kansas

By Pottroff & Karlin LLC |

(Dodge City, Kansas – March 14, 2016)

Seven cars of Amtrak’s Chicago-bound Southwest Chief derailed and five rolled onto their sides just after midnight, CDT, Monday morning, injuring at least 30 of the 142 passengers and crew members on board. BNSF, Amtrak and National Transportation Safety Board officials were flocking to the scene in a rural, heavily-travelled section of BNSF railroad track near the southwestern Kansas community of Cimarron about 20 miles west of Dodge City.

Emergency responders from Gray County and five individual communities raced to the scene of the early-morning crash which saw a total of 31 people, all reported to be passengers, to Western Plains Hospital in Dodge City. Two of the 16 patients it received were listed in “critical” condition, and St. Catherine’s Medical Center in Garden City, where the rest of the injured were taken for treatment.

Passenger Daniel Szczerba of Los Angeles, CA told Wichita TV station KWCH that “We realized something definitely was wrong after the shaking and we stopped. We got out and saw that four or five cars in the back, the coach cars, were on their sides.” Szczerba added that “A lot of people (were) just looking for family members. Of course, all the lights went out. It was dark. People traveling in groups of four and five got thrown around the car as it turned over and lost people as they were trying to get out of the emergency exits.“

The train’s locomotive engineer reportedly saw a “kink” in the rails ahead of his train and may have attempted to slow it from its speed of 75 MPH. Local officials were saying an earlier-occurring vehicular accident at that point could have produced damaged tracks. The Chicago Tribune reported that the engineer placed the train in emergency braking mode when he noticed what was described as “a significant bend” in the rail, according to an unidentified, by name or entity, authority. But in anticipation the arrival of an NTSB rail accident investigation team, who planned a 5:00 P.M., CDT Monday news conference to offer a preliminary overview of the facts surrounding the accident, which also shut down vehicular and commercial traffic on parallel U.S Highway 50. Yet, there was question as to why, if the track structure might have been suspect, the train was still barreling down the questionable track so near the 79 mph maximum speed authorized for trains through the corridor.  

Kansas City-bound passenger Derek Kemp, who was being treated for a chest contusion and a bruised arm from the wreck, told KWCH TV News reporters that he heard a “clack, clack, clack” noise before the accident happened.

Passenger Kelsey Wilson, 21, of Pueblo, CO, told KSN Fox News Wichita that she was on her way back to Truman State University in Kirksville, MO following Spring Break. She and her traveling companion, Daniel Aiken, also 21, of Lenexa, KS, escaped through the top and slid down the side of the overturned rail car in which the pair was riding. She “passed out” and had to be transported to one of the hospitals for treatment of her trauma. Aiken, meanwhile, said that he heard people scream during the ordeal, but that calm was restored after the frightened passengers realized that the derailed train “wasn’t going to blow up.”

Wichita’s KAKE-TV reporters interviewed Susan Morgan, the mother of one of the affected passengers, who told them that her daughter had to be assisted in escaping from the train’s wreckage.   

Uninjured but still stranded passengers were being sheltered at the 4-H recreation center in Cimarron, while local and area grocery stores and restaurants provided the displaced with meals until buses could arrive to ferry them to their destinations.  Meanwhile, Amtrak was detouring its westbound Southwest Chief over a competing rail route.


Railroad News


Train crash cases are unique and complex with many different potential pitfalls, such as federal preemption. Anytime I get hired or even get a call from a train crash victim, my very first call is to Nathan’s firm. Nathan’s knowledge and experience in handling and trying cases against these litigation savvy railroad companies gives me the confidence to know that the clients and cases I refer to him are getting the best of the best.

James Perrin Lubbock, Texas

I have had the opportunity to work as co-counsel with Nathan on several railroad crossing accidents cases. In each case, Nathan always possessed an incredible knowledge of the law and the facts, possessed a great talent for aggressive - strategic legal planning and trial tactics while, at the same time, displaying great skill as an effective negotiator. I would recommend him to anyone without hesitation.

Scott McCluen Harriman, Tennessee

Nathan Karlin has my strongest endorsement in the field of railroad crossing cases and personal injury law. I had the pleasure of working with Nathan in a complex railroad personal injury case. I was impressed by Nathan’s knowledge, his work ethic, and his dedication to the client. I look forward to working with Nathan on future injury matters. I am also aware firsthand that he has obtained excellent trial and settlement results in numerous cases involving members of the public harmed by railroad companies.

Joseph M. Miller Mandeville, Louisiana

Nathan is a warrior fighting the railroads. As a fellow personal injury lawyer, I have constantly been impressed with his depth of knowledge and his capabilities from case to case. I’d take him into battle with me any day against the biggest railroads and insurance companies on the planet.

Jon C. Clark Austin, Texas

Bob Pottroff has fought for the victims of the railroads’ callous disregard for safety more than any other attorney that I know. I should know because I am currently Chair-elect of the Railroad Section of ATLA.

Robert Schuetze Boulder, Colorado

Mr. Pottroff has shaken the rail industry to its very roots. Settlements are now more common as a result of the way he has exposed the industry’s wrongdoing.

Mike Easley Arkansas

Bob Pottroff’s work in railroad safety law is unmatched and he has been the source of great advice and phenomenal creativity.

Roger Brown Jefferson City, Missouri

In addition to his substantive contributions to railroad grade crossing safety, I have personally observed his untiring efforts and contributions to improving the integrity of the legal system.

Elizabeth Hardy Lake Charles, Louisiana

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8