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Towboat Company to Pay $1.4 Million in Amtrak Wreck

02.18.1998

An Alabama towboat company has paid $1.4 million to settle its portion of a claim stemming from the 1993 wreck of Amtrak's Sunset Limited train, which plunged off the Bayou Canot Bridge into 25-foot deep Big Bayou Canot near Mobile, Ala., on the early morning of Sept. 22, 1993. Forty-seven persons were killed in the worst train wreck in Amtrak history.

Thomas A. Demetrio and Michael K. Demetrio of Chicago's Corboy & Demetrio represented the family of James Edward Taube, a passenger on the train who was killed in the wreck. Taube, then 30, was returning to his Florida home with his wife, Ruth, then 28, who also was killed. Taube is survived by his parents, two brothers and a sister.

Warrior & Gulf Navigation Co., of Chickasaw, Ala., which paid the $1.4 million, transports barges along the Mobile River. According to the multidistrict litigation filed in federal district court in Alabama, a barge being moved by a Warrior & Gulf towboat known as the MV Mauvilla struck the bridge shortly before the Amtrak passenger train, the Sunset Limited, was scheduled to cross the bridge. The bridge then collapsed as the train crossed it, sending the train careening into Big Bayou Canot below.

Willie Odom, the pilot navigating the towboat, became disoriented in a dense fog and ran his barges into a collision course with the unlit bridge, according to the lawsuit. It maintains that Warrior & Gulf was negligent in the operation of the Mauvilla, for failing to have a proficiently trained crew and pilot on board and for failing to equip the towboat with modern navigational devices.

Claims are still pending against other defendants; CSX Transportation Inc., which owned and maintained the bridge and tracks running over it, as well as Amtrak, the operator of the Sunset Limited. Trials in these cases are expected to take place in Alabama later this year.

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