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No Criminal Liability Is Found in Amtrak Bayou Derailment

March 26, 1994|From Associated Press

MOBILE, Ala. — A six-month investigation has turned up no evidence of criminal wrongdoing in the Amtrak derailment that killed 47 people after the train plunged into a foggy bayou.

"The bottom line was that there was no criminal liability," Dist. Atty. Chris Galanos said Friday.

Galanos directed a task force that was deciding whether manslaughter or negligent homicide charges should be filed in Amtrak's worst disaster. His report did not address the issue of civil liability in the Sept. 22 crash.

Numerous lawsuits have been filed by the families of victims in the wreck on a span across Bayou Canot, about 10 miles north of Mobile.

The report by the prosecutor's Inter-Agency Task Force found that no state law was violated when barges pushed by a towboat rammed a bridge at the bayou only minutes before the Sunset Limited plunged from the span.

The towboat pilot, Willie Odom, surrendered his license last week rather than face a Coast Guard hearing, said Capt. Mike Perkins, commander of the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Office in Mobile.

In its conclusion, the county prosecutor's report states that "only acts rising to the level of 'recklessness' or 'criminal negligence' " as defined in the state code would warrant a criminal charge.

"The facts, when analyzed in the context of the statute, do not support such a conclusion," the report says.

The National Transportation Safety Board's separate report on the derailment is not expected until this summer.

Odom told the safety board he was attempting to tie up his barges because of the heavy fog and believed he was still on the Mobile River when he saw an object on his radar that he thought was another tug. Instead, it was the bridge.

Safety board investigators said Odom's barges hit the bridge, knocking the span out of line and causing the Sunset Limited to derail when it reached the crossing. Many of the 47 victims drowned in a submerged passenger car.

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