In this Dec. 18, 2017, photo, cars from an Amtrak train lay spilled onto I-5 after it plunged off the track in DuPont. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)

In this Dec. 18, 2017, photo, cars from an Amtrak train lay spilled onto I-5 after it plunged off the track in DuPont. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)

Jury to decide compensation for injured in 2017 Amtrak crash

The train was on a new route from Tacoma to Portland when it plunged onto I-5, killing three people.

  • Wednesday, September 4, 2019 12:05pm
  • Northwest

Associated Press

TACOMA — Attorneys for people injured in a deadly Amtrak derailment in Washington state in 2017 have told jurors in a civil case it’s up to them to decide how much compensation should be given to those who suffered broken bones, brain injuries and other trauma.

The News Tribune reports that the trial began Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma. The train was on its first paid passenger run on a new route from Tacoma to Portland, Oregon, when it plunged onto Interstate 5, killing three people and injuring dozens.

Among the injured were 26-year-old Aaron Harris, 29-year-old Dale Skyllingstad, and 24-year-old Blaine Wilmotte. Attorneys made opening statements in their case in U.S. District Court in Tacoma. Others injured in the derailment await trial.

David Beninger, one of the attorneys representing the injured, told jurors Amtrak has admitted liability for negligence in the crash and that it’s the job of the jury to decide how much his clients should receive.

“They’re going to ask you to shave down what the full, fair compensation is,” Beninger said of Amtrak’s attorneys.

In June, the National Transportation Safety Board has published its final report on the crash, with the agency’s vice chairman blasting what he described as a “Titanic-like complacency” among those charged with ensuring train operations were safe.

The NTSB said the engineer lost track of where he was and failed to slow down before a curve. The agency said a series of decisions or inactions by Amtrak as well as state and federal regulators set the engineer up to fail. The agency’s vice chairman, Bruce Landsberg, wrote in comments published with the final report that the root cause was “extremely lax safety oversight, unclear responsibility, and poor training.”

Mark Landman, one of the attorneys representing Amtrak, told jurors Tuesday they must decide what compensation is fair and reasonable.

“These people suffered awful injuries,” Landman said. “Never should have happened, and we admit that.”

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