Local News

Cary widow sues Amtrak, rail operator after train kills husband

Posted July 14, 2011

— The widow of a Cary man who died two years ago after his car was hit by an Amtrak train at a Raleigh rail crossing has sued Amtrak and the operator of the rail line.

Nanette Daniels is seeking $450,000 in damages from Amtrak's parent, the National Railroad Passenger Corp., and CSX Transportation Inc., which owns and maintains the rail line.

"I decided to sue because facts came to light regarding my husband's death that have never before been investigated," Nanette Daniels said in a statement to WRAL News. "My goal is to ensure that no one has to die the way Jack died."

Jack Milton Daniels, 60, was killed on June 9, 2009, when he drove onto the crossing near Royal and Hillsborough streets and his Toyota Solara was hit by a train traveling from Charlotte to New York.

Police said Daniels ignored the flashing signal at the crossing and appeared to stop his car in the middle of the crossing.

Investigators told family members that Daniels had committed suicide, but friends and relatives say that theory is wrong.

"No way. Jack would never commit suicide," longtime friend Jerry Hart said. "He loved his wife and daughter way too much to end a life like that."

The lawsuit, filed last month in federal court in Raleigh, alleges that the safety arms malfunctioned at the crossing. The arms dropped and then went back up, allowing Jack Daniels to drive onto the crossing, before they dropped again and trapped him, according to the suit.

"There is an established history of issues with said safety gates pursuant to witness testimony," the suit states.

Rail crossing Cary widow sues Amtrak, rail operator after train kills husband

Some people who work in the area near the track and drive along the intersection said shortly after the fatal crash that the railroad crossing bar there had malfunctioned periodically.

A representative for CSX said at the time that it appeared the arms were working on the morning of the crash and that there had been no recent reports of issues at the crossing.

According to the suit, CSX workers replaced the safety arms the day after Jack Daniels was killed and told Nanette Daniels that the crossing was scheduled for maintenance.

The suit also alleges that the Amtrak engineer had a known degenerative eye disease.

"Failing eyesight contributed to the engineer's inability to apply brakes prior to striking (Daniels') car," the suit states.

The Solara was pushed about 75 feet before being thrown off the tracks.

The Danielses owned and ran the Jack Daniels Grocery Store on Jones Franklin Road for decades. Family members said Jack Daniels was on his way to make an inventory pickup when he died.

"Jack was the backbone, the soul of the whole business," Hart said.

Friends and relatives now sport bumper stickers on their vehicles in honor of Daniels: "Take care at railroad crossings, because the train won't."

Nanette Daniels said she would donate the lion's share of any judgment to diabetes research efforts since he husband suffered from the disease.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • jdixon2 Jul 15, 2011

    Could it be the fact that she's filed bankruptcy and is just looking for a cash cow to get her out of money problems.

  • ashleymarling Jul 15, 2011

    She won't win. You can't beat a train. I don't know why people think they can stop on a dime. It takes about 1.5-2 miles for a train to stop. They are just trying to place blame on other people rather than accept it was the husbands fault. He should not have been on the tracks in the first place. He failed to obey the road sign which says, KEEP OFF TRACKS! Could he not hear the train whistle. Well good luck to her.. people sue all the time but never win

  • uncw05 Jul 15, 2011

    MonkeyFace- if there is a question of suicide keeping her from getting the life insurance (I don't know if there is, I'm not saying there is, just IF) the fact that they will probably settle will be the equivalent to admitting not being 100% not responsible for his death, that would legally make it not suicide.

  • MonkeyFace Jul 15, 2011

    the only way i can see how sueing them would help any, is if her husband didn't have any life insurance, and she needed help paying off debt to cover furneral cost.

  • dcatz Jul 14, 2011

    Eyesight of the engineer is irrelevant. Trains do not stop on a dime. Even going slow, a train can easily take a mile or more to come to a stop from the time the brakes are actuated. And the brakes don't actuate right away; when the emergency brake is activated, it takes about 10 seconds for air pressure to make it from the compressors in the front of the train to the back (you can't apply the breaks until the pressure reaches every car because otherwise you'd derail the train by having cars run into each other.) So that's 10 seconds + at least a mile of stopping distance. Someone with 20/10 vision could not have stopped the train in time.

    Also, in the original article, it indicated that the engineer was blowing the horn for at least 20-30 seconds prior to hitting the car. A train horn is loud. I find it unlikely that he wouldn't have heard it and 20-30 seconds is more than enough time to exit the vehicle and leave the tracks.

  • chilipeppernc Jul 14, 2011

    I still suspect suicide

  • NCraised Jul 14, 2011

    As a former Locomotive Engineer please let me interject my opinion. I was involved in a very similar incident to this one back in 1999. The driver stopped on the tracks and was hit because when he was going over the tracks and saw the train coming he completely froze from fear. This was confirmed by 2 surviving (barely) passengers. I know of multiple instances of this. Also, this will never go to trial because it is cheaper to settle than to go to court and win.

  • spookems Jul 14, 2011

    My dad was a railroad official who retired after 47 years with the rail line. I was riding with him when he stopped at a lighted crossing. I questioned his reason. He replied that he had spent a day riding with the supervisor whose crews maintained the crossing lights. That supervisor stopped at a lighted crossing. My dad asked him why. His response was..."I work on them and I know that they don't always work."

    I always slow down and or stop at all crossings because I know that mechanical problems can occur. Intermittent problems can occur that are difficult to diagnose and repair.

    There were witnesses and there is a video from the train which shows several seconds before the wreck. The court is going to make the determination.

    I knew Jack for around 55 years. He was one of the happiest nicest most generous people that I've ever known. A truly good man.

    I have no idea what happened that day except that I and many others lost a good friend.

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Jul 14, 2011

    The wife is claiming the gates came down, then went right back up again, then her husband proceeding thinking it was a fluke, and when he reached the tracks, they came back down again boxing him in.

    Don't know what proof she offers for that happening, but the tv story said she does not have an attorney, so we can't blame an ambulance chaser for this suit. Also, she says she's donating whatever she wins to charity. Guess we'll have to wait to see if that happens.

    Still...if that happened to me at a train crossing, I think I'd proceed with caution before trusting gates that came down and went right back up again.

    Guess we'll never know.

  • GLOCKMASTER Jul 14, 2011

    Last time I checked the train had the right of way.