CHAPEL HILL, Tenn. (WKRN) — On Tuesday, the mother of three children who died at a train crossing filed a lawsuit, claiming the lack of lights and a crossing arm at the intersection contributed to her children’s deaths.
“I want to eliminate that cross or improve the signals and signs there, and I hope they were the last victims that die and lose their life in that place. It was horrible,” said Maria Celeste, in a previous interview with News 2.
The deaths of her three children in Chapel Hill sparked the lawsuit filed just one month after the deadly crash. The incident highlighted change that community members have been wanting for years.
“It’s tragic that a loss of life has [to] bring something like this to light and after the completed investigation is done, we will sit down and say, ‘okay, what are our options here,'” said Town Administrator Danny Bigham.
The lawsuit claims the crossing is “dangerous, hazardous, negligently constructed, and deadly.” Celeste’s children — 22-year-old Duvraska, 25-year-old Magyory and 29-year-old Jose — were the victims in the crash
The lawsuit goes into detail, claiming the three were crossing when “the vehicle was violently struck by the train,” going on to say as they attempted to go over the tracks, their “visibility of the oncoming train was obscured.” Celeste’s lawyers placed 100% of the blame on CSX Transportation and the city of Chapel Hill.
Following the crash, neighbors in the area spoke with News 2 about the need for more safety measures.
“There’s a stop sign at the bottom and the top but once you get up there, there’s no rails, nothing that even tells you the trains coming unless you hear the horn,” said Brett Stallcup, a Chapel Hill Resident.
After News 2 obtained the documents filed on behalf of the Celeste family, we decided to look into train safety throughout the state. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, in Tennessee, there are more than 5,000 railroad crossings, 505 of which have flashing lights. More than 1,000 are equipped with crossbucks, and 208 of them are listed as having no signs or signals.
“What we are going to try to do through this case is to make changes to that crossing,” said Rocky McElhaney, Celeste’s attorney.
The lawsuit is asking for $12.5 million in the “preventable wrongful deaths” of Celeste’s three children. At the time when the crash happened, News 2 reached out to CSX for comment, we were told state agencies have the responsibility to alert drivers. When we reached back out after the lawsuit was filed, we were told the company does not comment on pending litigation.