Jefferson County woman suing Norfolk Southern after husband’s death on tracks in Bessemer

Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 10:14 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A Jefferson County woman is now suing Norfolk Southern Railway after her husband was killed on a Bessemer railroad last year.

Police called it a “freak accident” when a metal beam, sticking out from another stationary train, struck and killed 43-year-old Walter James Griffin III.

Attorneys for Griffin’s family said the railway’s negligence led to Mr. Griffin’s death, citing in court documents that had that railcar been inspected properly, he would still be alive.

“If the fault did not occur, then he would still be with us today,” Attorney for Griffin’s family, David Brown with Serious Injury Lawgroup, said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is now investigating. His death happened on December 13, 2022 in the early morning hours. Griffin was training to be a conductor. That’s when the train he was inside passed by another train on the tracks that was parked.

“Essentially, a metal portion that was protruding off of one of the cars from the other Norfolk Southern train, it actually came through and killed him.”

Officers called it a freak accident on the scene, but Brown said it could have been prevented.

“I see how it was described as a freak accident, but I do not think that is a proper characterization of it. This is something that is preventable, this is not just random type of a situation. This is something where there was clear fault by the individuals involved.”

Griffin leaves behind a wife and 14-year-old daughter. Griffin’s family is now suing Norfolk Southern, U.S. Pipe fabrication and others for wrongful death.

“It shouldn’t protrude in the first place,” Brown said of the metal beam. “The law requires entities to do inspections of their loads before they actually leave the property. We see a very straightforward situation where the folks at Norfolk Southern and the folks at U.S. Pipe, where the train car departed from earlier, should have done their jobs and inspected it.”

“He’s was a trainee, there was nothing wrong he did in the situation, he was just there,” Brown said.

Norfolk Southern told WBRC in a statement: “The loss of our colleague was tragic, and our thoughts remain with his family. It would be inappropriate to comment further while the NTSB continues their investigation.”

Attorneys for the case are set to have a court hearing on March 16 that will determine the schedule moving forward.

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