Railroad News

Teen Who Lost Father In Chatsworth Train Collision Testifies Before Congress

 (Washington, D.C., March 17, 2011) A 15-year-old whose father was among 25 people who were killed in a 2008 commuter train collision at Chatsworth (Los Angeles County), California, testified before a Congressional panel Thursday in behalf of legislation proposed by Congressman Elton Gallegly (R-CA) that would lift a current $200 million cap on total damages in a train disaster to $275 million. Mackenzie Souser lost her father, Doyle Souser in the head-on collision of the train he was riding and a Union Pacific freight train as the commuter train’s engineer exchanged text messages with a railfan, ignoring red stop signals. Both the Congressman and the victim’s daughter feel the existing cap will be insufficient once spread among the families of the 25 who were killed and the more than 100 injured passengers. Veolia Transportation, a company which supplies personnel to operate LA MetroLink trains, disputed the proposed legislation, saying that “the $200 million fund is the largest financial recovery fund in the history of passenger rail,” said Veolia Transportation VP and general counsel Alan Modawer of the liability cap legislated by Congress in 1997 to help keep passenger train systems such as Amtrak operating when faced with catastrophic events resulting in major lawsuits. Congressman Gallegly countered that the cap had not kept up with inflation, and noted that medical expenses had soared over the past 15 years since its passage. Miss Souser broke into tears when she attested “I struggle every day with the fact that my dad, who was the sole breadwinner for our family, isn’t coming home ever again!”