Skip to Main Content
Railroad News

Washington Mom Killed and Son Seriously Injured by Amtrak Train at Dangerous, Obscured and Unguarded BNSF Crossing

By Pottroff & Karlin LLC |

(Camas, Washington – May 16, 2017)

A 34-year-old Vancouver, WA mother was killed and her 14-year-old son hospitalized after their car was hit and crushed by a Portland-bound Amtrak passenger train. The Amtrak train was operating on BNSF railroad tracks Tuesday morning at about 10:30 A.M., PDT about three miles west of Camas, WA.  The mother’s seriously-injured child, who was in the front passenger seat of the destroyed vehicle, was rushed by ambulance to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver.

The train that killed Maria G. Gonzales Torres was Amtrak’s “Empire Builder”, one of between 35 and 40 trains that operate daily across the heavily tree and foliage-obscured crossing at maximum allowable speeds of up to 70 mph. BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas was quoted by Camas/Washougal Post-Record Reporter Kelly Moyer as saying that “the private crossing had warning signs, but no bells, flashing lights or crossing arms to indicate that a train was approaching.”

Melonas added that these types of marked, private crossings, which typically lead into residential areas, are common in the Camas area.

It is virtually certain that if this crossing was protected by active warning devices, this collision would not have occurred. BNSF, Amtrak and Operation Lifesaver all know that lights and gates are the most effective type of protection at railroad crossings. Studies that have been conducted over fifty years ago confirm that lights and gates offer the ability to drastically reduce the number of vehicle/train accidents by as much as 96%.

News media photos of the fatal crossing showed how heavily enshrouded the crossing was by trees and underbrush, virtually forcing motorists to endanger themselves and their passengers while looking for approaching trains.

“It’s just sad to hear of someone dying,” lamented neighbor Yadira Alfaro to Portland’s KOIN-TV. “Sometimes you don’t hear the train.”

Portland Fox 12 KPTV News described the fatal crossing as “unsecured.”



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