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Railroad Red Tape Frustrates Police Attempts to Complete Crossing Fatality Investigation

By Pottroff & Karlin LLC |

(Cohoes, New York — August 26, 2011)

Three weeks after a Norfolk Southern freight train took the life of a 70-year-old passenger in a car driven by her husband, who was seriously injured, at the New Courtland Street crossing in Cohoes, NY, Police Chief Bill Heslin is still awaiting the railroad’s cooperation.

In order to determine if and when the gates and signals activated at the crossing (eyewitness accounts vary) the evening of August 5, Chief Heslin must review the videotape taken by the locomotive’s on-board video recorder.

"I can’t believe it takes this long to get a look at a video," says the stymied chief of police.

"It seems very odd that something this important would take this long." Norfolk Southern has said that, because the railroad is involved in interstate commerce, they "fall under federal jurisdiction, which does not compel them to turn over evidence."

NS claims that, due to proprietary restrictions, a representative of NS must download the video and show it to Cohoes authorities on a laptop.

"Apparently, we’re not legally allowed to get a copy of the video," laments Chief Heslin. When reporters asked Norfolk Southern Spokesman Rudy Husband about the status of the video, he replied "That’s something we’ll work out with the chief." Meanwhile, the investigation into the tragic fatality remains open.


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