JACKSON, Miss. (AP/KXAN) — Federal regulators say a train crash into a tour bus that killed four Central Texans last year stemmed from the railroad and a Mississippi city failing to improve an unsafe rail crossing.
At a meeting Tuesday in Washington, the National Transportation Safety Board also issued 11 recommendations aimed at preventing future crashes. The recommendations focus on railroads and governments doing more to evaluate railroad crossings that are so steep they pose safety risks.
The NTSB was investigating why four Texas tourists died and 38 others were injured in March 2017 after their bus got stuck on a Biloxi rail crossing and was hit by a CSX Corp. freight train.
According to the report, the street grade crossing had an “unusually high vertical profile” which puts vehicles such as trucks and buses “at risk of being ‘grounded’ on the tracks.”
“This tragedy was preceded by numerous unheeded warnings in the three years leading up to it,” said NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt. “They came in the form of known groundings of other vehicles at the very same grade crossing where the fatal crash occurred. Warnings call for action.”
Biloxi and CSX officials didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Biloxi has since banned trucks, buses and recreational vehicles from the crossing.
The bus picked up passengers at the First National Bank in Bastrop on March 5, 2017 and were scheduled to come back from the 6-night trip the following weekend. The president of Bastrop Senior Center said most of the passengers, who were on a trip to a Biloxi casino, were center members.
Melissa Ramirez Flores, a daughter of a woman on board the bus, told KXAN last year her mother, who is from Lockhart, fractured her back and has sore ribs from the crash.