Evidence tampering occurred, company says
March 10, 2014
RENO — Lawyers for a trucking company involved in a collision with an Amtrak train are renewing their allegations of evidence tampering by Union Pacific Railroad.
The accusations were raised in new court documents filed by attorneys for John Davis Trucking Co. over the 2011 collision east of Reno the killed six people and injured 15.
Trucking company attorneys are questioning whether Ken Hunt, a senior Union Pacific official, ignored a National Transportation Safety Board directive to secure the crash site until investigators arrived.
A Union Pacific spokesman denied the allegations in a statement to the newspaper.
“We plan to vigorously defend ourselves against the claim that Union Pacific tampered with evidence or withheld information related to the investigation of this incident,” Aaron Hunt said in an email to the Gazette-Journal.
Amtrak’s California Zephyr was traveling from Chicago to California on June 24, 2011, when a Peterbilt tractor-trailer driven by Lawrence Valli slammed into the train at a crossing on U.S. 95. Valli, 43, was killed as was the train’s conductor and four passengers.
An NTSB report released in late 2012 said inattentive driving and faulty brakes on the truck likely caused the crash. The NTSB board also ruled out the possibility the crossing guard gate or warning lights malfunctioned after time-lapsed photography showed the gate fully extended for four seconds before the crash.
Monitoring equipment also indicated the warning lights were flashing and the gate was in place 18 seconds before the collision when the truck was still 900 feet away from the crossing, the report said.
John Davis company claims the crossing gates were not working.
The trucking company, Amtrak and Union Pacific have competing lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Reno. About 20 civil suits were consolidated into one case in Washoe District Court.