Skip to Main Content
Railroad News

Three People Visiting Family in GA Town Killed by Amtrak Train at Unguarded, Dangerous Crossing

By Pottroff & Karlin LLC |

(Toccoa, Georgia – May 3, 2013)

A man and two women, all in their 20’s, two from the Atlanta, GA suburb of Austell, GA, and all travelling to Toccoa, GA to visit family, were tragically killed Friday night about 9:45 P.M. when the 2008 Mazda they were in was struck by a northbound Amtrak passenger train at the dangerous, unprotected crossing of Summit Ridge/Grant Smith Road and Norfolk Southern railroad tracks, dragged some 300 yards, overturned numerous times, ejecting one occupant, and ultimately  thrown upside-down into a ravine, where it caught fire.

Stephens County Coroner Christopher Stephens finally Monday identified those killed as Erich Boecklbauer, 23, and Areale Leight Nunn, 22, both from Austell, and Crystal Crews, 20, of Kennesaw, GA. It is believed all three victims were killed instantly.

The railroad crossing, which has only a standard railroad crossbuck and a highway stop sign for “protection”, serves a subdivision just south of Toccoa, and sees a daily average of 27 trains at a top allowable speed of 79 mph. However, Stephens County Sheriff Randy Shirley said the New Orleans-to-Washington, DC “Southern Crescent”, with 169 passengers on board, was travelling at about 60 mph at the time of the accident. He also said no signs of alcohol or drugs being factors in the tragedy were found. “The train T-boned the 2008 Mazda,” continued Sheriff Shirley. “It was a violent crash!”

Neighbors who live near the crossing, where recent railroad tie replacement and surfacing work had resulted In the creation of a significant “berm” along each side of the double-tracked main line, told Atlanta Channel 11 TV reporters that they have been trying for years to improve the “dangerous and barely visible” crossing that claimed the three young adults’ lives Friday night.

Toccoa is about 95 miles north of Atlanta, GA. The victims were nearing an area known as “Rock Quarry Circle.”

The bodies of the victims were all transported to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Atlanta, GA, where autopsies are to be performed. Names of the victims were still unannounced 48 hours after the tragedy, mainly due to the condition of the bodies and the necessity of determining each individual’s identity through the capabilities of the Crime Lab.

The Association of American Railroads said in a recent study that the installation of flashing lights, bells and crossing gates could prevent 93% of accidents and deaths at railroad grade crossings. Yet, dangerous, unguarded crossings like the one at the site of Friday night’s tragedy continue to exist.

Records show that the most recent accident at the Summit Ridge/Grant Smith Road intersection with NS railroad tracks was a non-injury collision on August 26, 2005.


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