Family of grandmother killed in train crash files suit against DOT, railroad

Susan Weatherford
Susan Weatherford

ORANGEBURG, SC (WIS) - The family of a woman who was killed by a train after her grandson's car got stuck on the tracks last year is suing the State Department of Transportation and Norfolk Southern Railroad.

82-year-old Susan Weatherford died on Friday, May 13, 2011. Her grandson, Jeremy, 20, was chauffeuring her around town that day when something went terribly wrong.

Just blocks away from his house, Jeremy says he turned a corner and had to swerve to avoid a car stopped at the Sellers Avenue railroad crossing. The near-miss sent Weatherford's car onto the tracks.

An approaching train hit the driver's side of the vehicle and pushed it about 80 yards before coming to a stop. Jeremy was able to escape, but Susan was unable to get out and was ejected, officials said.

Police originally said that driver error was the main factor in the accident, but decided months later not to file criminal charges against Weatherford.

In a wrongful death lawsuit, Weatherford's estate believes that Norfolk Southern and the SCDOT maintain and operate a dangerous crossing, according to the

The lawsuit claims both Norfolk Southern and SCDOT failed to warn of the hazards at the intersection and that state laws were violated in relation to railroad line maintenance, construction or safety measures.

An attorney for the Weatherford estate said train speeds have increased in that area from 15 mph to 49 mph in the last 12 years. "In a congested area, it becomes extremely dangerous," Johnny Parker told the TandD.

He also cited faulty construction of the tracks and the amount of space vehicles have near the tracks as factors in Weatherford's death.

In paperwork filed at the courthouse, Norfolk Southern claims the accident was due to negligence on Jeremy Weatherford's part and not the train company.

The railroad's attorneys declined comment to the newspaper.

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