ATHENS, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – The family of a 13 year old Texas boy killed when a train struck his school bus has filed a lawsuit against the Union Pacific Railroad claiming the railroad ignored “obvious dangers”.
In January, Christopher Bonilla was one stop away from his home in Athens when the school bus he was riding on was hit broadside by a Union Pacific train and pushed down the track.
Bonilla was ejected and killed on impact while his 9-year-old cousin, the only other student on the bus, sustained severe injuries.
John Stevens, the 79 year old bus driver, was charged with criminally negligent homicide and injury to a child but the Bonilla family attorney said he believes Union Pacific Railroad, not the bus driver, is primarily responsible for the accident.
The lawsuit claims “the school bus driver got caught in the trap Union Pacific laid for him.”
Attorney Chip Brooker said Union Pacific ignored the obvious dangers and it was “only a matter of time before someone died” at the Wofford Street crossing.
Brooker said the steep approach to the raised crossing, the obstructed lines of sight, and the less than 30 degree crossing angle made the train crossing “not only dangerous but extra-hazardous.”
The crossing on Wofford Street has no lights, stop signs, or a crossing gate. It only has a crossbuck and yield sign in each direction.
“There is no justifiable reason why Union Pacific hasn’t put better warning devices, at least gates and lights at this crossing,” Brooker said, adding the railroad could have also closed the crossing.
A spokesperson for Union Pacific Railroad told the CBS 11 I-Team it could not comment on the lawsuit at this time as the railroad company has not yet been served. The lawsuit was filed Friday in Henderson County.
According to federal records, on average eight trains pass through the Wofford Street crossing every day traveling at 40 miles per hour, while nearly 3,000 vehicles drive daily over the crossing.
In 2010, at the same crossing, there was another collision when a train slammed into a pickup truck. The driver was injured but survived.
In May, a CBS 11 I-Team investigation found more than 300 train crossings across North Texas don’t have a gate. At these crossings, in the past decade, trains have slammed into vehicles 65 times.