Oklahoma City Got “Lucky” with Its Latest Derailment

Oklahoma City Got “Lucky” with Its Latest DerailmentA recent train derailment in central Oklahoma overturned 22 cars carrying gravel but did not result in any injuries. The accident occurred in the afternoon on Saturday, March 30.

According to My Northwest, “The derailment occurred Saturday afternoon just east of Davenport, which is located about 50 miles (80 km) northeast of Oklahoma City. The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office said 22 of the train’s 90 cars rolled over during the derailment, spilling gravel. The train was operated by Stillwater Central Railroad.”

In addition to zero injuries, the sheriff’s office also reported there were no hazardous materials on board the train at the time of the accident. However, the Lincoln County of Emergency Management did note that there was a minor fuel leak from one of the locomotives involved, and that “environmental crews are actively mitigating the fuel spill.”

The fact that no one was injured and there was no toxic contamination makes this a “lucky” train derailment. It could have been far, far worse.

What is a train derailment?

A train derailment is an accident where a train comes off the tracks it’s supposed to be on. Train derailments can vary in severity, from minor incidents to major disasters. Even minor derailments can cause delays and disrupt railway operations. More extensive derailments can cause massive injuries and loss of life. There are also safety measures in place to try to prevent derailments, such as regular inspections of tracks and trains, and speed limits for curves.

The National Safety Council reports a total of 954 railroad deaths in 2022, which is an 11% increase over 2021 and the highest number since 2007. “Nonfatal injuries totaled 6,252, a 6% increase from the 2021 revised total of 5,882,” they add.

Additionally, NPR notes that there are over 1,000 train derailments every year in the United States. This means about three derailments per day. They also report that human error was the leading cause of derailments in 2022.

What causes train derailments?

Train derailments can happen due to several reasons, which we’ve broadly classified into three categories: track issues, equipment malfunctions, and human error.

  • Track issues: These include problems with the rails themselves, such as broken rails, cracks, or weak spots. Other issues can be with the track bed, like improper drainage causing washouts, or obstructions on the tracks due to debris or objects left too close.
  • Equipment malfunctions: Failures in the train itself can also lead to derailments. This could be defective wheels or axles, problems with the suspension system, or malfunctioning brakes.
  • Human error: Train operators who disregard safety signals, speed limits, or fail to properly operate switches can cause derailments. Additionally, fatigued crews or errors in communication between the crew can also contribute.

Other types of train accidents

  • Derailments aren’t the only type of accident that can cause serious damage and injuries. Other common train accidents include: Collisions:Train-on-train collisions can happen due to various reasons like switch malfunctions or signal errors. Trains can also collide with other vehicles at railroad crossings or with pedestrians trespassing on the tracks.
  • Grade crossing incidents:A grade crossing incident, also sometimes called a grade crossing collision or accident, is any accident that occurs at a railroad crossing. These are the most common type of train accident, often involving cars or pedestrians at level crossings where the train tracks meet the road.
  • Equipment failures:Mechanical problems with the train itself, like brake malfunctions or faulty wheels, can lead to accidents.

Grade crossing incidents in particular are extremely dangerous. Operation Lifesaver notes that Oklahoma saw 41 collisions, four deaths, and 17 injuries at grade crossings in 2023. Our state ranks 16th in the nation for the most highway-rail grade crossing accidents.

What types of injuries do train accidents cause?

Train accidents vary greatly in force and type, and the resulting injuries can reflect that. They can range from minor bumps and bruises to life-threatening conditions. Here’s a list of some common injuries:

  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI):The violent shaking and impacts during a train crash can cause TBIs, ranging from mild concussions to severe brain damage.
  • Spinal cord injuries:Damage to the spinal cord can result in partial or complete paralysis, depending on the location and severity of the injury.
  • Traumatic amputations:Train accidents can cause crush injuries that may necessitate the amputation of limbs.
  • Fractured or crushed bones:The immense force of a train crash can cause fractures and crush injuries to bones throughout the body.
  • Internal injuries:Impacts during a crash can cause internal bleeding or organ damage.
  • Severe lacerations and burns:Depending on the type of accident, victims may sustain deep cuts or burns.

It’s important to remember that this is not an exhaustive list, and the severity of your injuries will depend on the specific circumstances of your accident. If you are involved in a train accident, seek medical attention immediately, regardless of how serious you think your injuries are. In addition to protecting your physical health, having proper and up-to-date medical records can help you with future legal action.

If you sustained harm or losses in a train derailment or accident, the Oklahoma City injury attorneys at Cunningham & Mears are here to help. With decades of experience under our belts, we are uniquely qualified to help you after any type of accident caused by someone else’s negligence. To schedule a free and confidential case review, simply call our office or submit our contact form today.