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Trial set in suit against railroad for deaths of two women

Thursday, February 21st, 2013
Issue 08, Volume 17.

RIVERSIDE - Jury selection is slated to begin a week from today in a civil trial to resolve claims of negligence against Union Pacific Railroad in connection with the deaths of a driver and her passenger, who were struck by a train when she drove onto railroad tracks in Riverside.

The families of 23-year-old Renee Ammari and 18-year-old Tanya Sayegh, both of San Bernardino, sued Union Pacific, alleging the crew driving an 86-car train that smashed into the victims in the predawn hours of Nov. 1, 2007, did not take the actions necessary to prevent the accident.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Sharon Waters has scheduled trial proceedings to get under way on Feb. 28.

Ammari and Sayegh were struck after Ammari drove her black 1996 Honda Passport SUV onto tracks crossing Mission Inn Avenue.

According to a Riverside County Coroner's Office report, Ammari had a blood-alcohol level that was nearly twice the legal limit to operate a motor vehicle in California at the time of the accident.

The women had been at a Halloween party at Cafe Sevilla in downtown Riverside just before they were killed. According to investigators, they left the party around 1 a.m. and headed southeast on Mission Inn Avenue. Ammari turned onto a gravel strip that straddles a pair of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad tracks at Santa Fe Avenue.

According to coroner's officials, the disoriented Ammari apparently realized her Advertisement
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mistake and attempted to make a U-turn on the tracks to get back to Mission Inn, but the SUV became stuck between the tracks and a retaining wall.

Witnesses reported seeing both women outside the vehicle at one point, looking around on the ground.

Around 1:15 a.m., a northbound Union Pacific train approached the women's location, traveling around 35 mph. The train engineer later told investigators that he spotted Ammari's dark-colored vehicle in the train's headlight, sounded the horn and applied the brakes.

Coroner's officials said video from the train's front camera recorded the image of a woman standing on the passenger side of a vehicle with her hands stretched in front of her chest.

The locomotive knocked the SUV end-over-end into the women. Sayegh was pronounced dead at the scene. Ammari died about five hours later at Riverside Community Hospital.

"Had the crew of the Union Pacific Railroad Company been alert and attentive, as per the rules governing railroad operations, they then would have seen the flashing, warning-hazard lights of the plaintiffs' vehicle and timely applied the emergency brakes," the families' attorney, Ron Makarem, alleged. "Their negligent actions resulted in the deaths of two young women."

The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified monetary damages from Union Pacific, which did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

The families also sued BNSF and the city of Riverside, but those cases were dismissed, according to court records.



Comment Profile ImageRjweishaar
Comment #1 | Thursday, Feb 21, 2013 at 3:56 pm
Good luck with that case. It was obviously the driver's actions that lead to the accident. Try to stop a train with 86 cars going 35 MPH! This is a frivolous lawsuit and should have been thrown out.
Comment Profile ImageBobby T.
Comment #2 | Friday, Feb 22, 2013 at 1:17 am
The five finalists in the 2013 I.B.A.Richard Cranium Railroad Operator
contest with 60 days of reports missing yet.
The updated Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data shows 2011
also saw the lowest fatality rate ever recorded, with 1.10 deaths per
100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2011, down from 1.11 deaths per
100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2010. (1 fatality per 90,909,091
miles traveled)
January TO October, 2012
AMTRAK -Total fatalities: 97
Total nonfatal conditions: 1,463
Killed crossings-28
Killed Pedestrians-64
Killed Passengers-4
Killed workers-0
Injured crossings-137
Injured pedestrians-31
Injured workers-572
Injured passengers-576
Total train miles: 33,814,976
1 killed per 348,608 miles traveled
In 100 million miles Amtrak kills 287 people not 1.1 people.
BNSF-Total fatalities: 73
Total nonfatal conditions: 608
Killed crossings-32
Killed Pedestrians-37
Killed Passengers-0
Killed workers-0
Injured crossings-77
Injured pedestrians-46
Injured workers-397
Injured passengers-0
Total train miles: 159,783,002
1 killed per 2,188,808 miles traveled
In 100 million miles BNSF kills 46 people not 1.1 people.
CSX- Total fatalities: 86
Total nonfatal conditions: 399
Killed crossings-28
Killed Pedestrians-57
Killed Passengers-0
Killed workers-2
Injured crossings-119
Injured pedestrians-72
Injured workers-184
Injured passengers-0
Total train miles: 83,610,301
1 killed per 972,213 miles traveled
In 100 million miles CSX kills 103 people not 1.1 people.
Norfolk Southern-Total fatalities: 73
Total nonfatal conditions: 391
Killed crossings-17
Killed Pedestrians-55
Killed Passengers-0
Killed workers-0
Injured crossings-89
Injured pedestrians-44
Injured workers-183
Injured passengers-0
Total train miles: 73,999,677
1 killed per 1,013,694 miles traveled
In 100 million miles NS kills 99 people not 1.1 people.
Union Pacific-Total fatalities: 114
Total nonfatal conditions: 770
Killed crossings-44
Killed Pedestrians-61
Killed Passengers-0
Killed workers-5
Injured crossings-149
Injured pedestrians-80
Injured workers-384
Injured passengers-0
Total train miles: 140,664,592
1 killed per 1,233,900 miles traveled.
In 100 million miles UP kills 81 people not 1.1 people.
Comment Profile ImageJustin
Comment #3 | Friday, Feb 22, 2013 at 1:33 pm
Frivolous waste of court resources.
Comment Profile ImageBill Brakeman
Comment #4 | Monday, Apr 15, 2013 at 8:57 am
DO NOT think for one moment that a train can stop in time to keep from hitting you. The idea that a train should be able to stop in time to “prevent” striking an object or person that is in the path of the train is a concept promoted by personal injury attorneys for their own enrichment. Keep believing this childish fantasy and ignore reality and you too can throw your life away needlessly so some attorney can have a chance to get richer.

Article Comments are contributed by our readers, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Valley News staff. The name listed as the author for comments cannot be verified; Comment authors are not guaranteed to be who they claim they are.


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