On September 12, 2008, a passenger train engineer employed by a unit of Veolia Transportation was texting on his cell phone, ran a red light and crashed into a freight train in Chatsworth, CA. The crash killed 25 people and seriously injured at least 135. More than 2½ years later, Veolia created a fund for $200 million -- the cap on rail accidents proscribed by U.S. federal law.
A review by a retired judge estimated real lifetime damages for the survivors in the $600 million range -- three times the amount of the fund. To date, Veolia has declined to pay any funds to the victims over and above the $200 million statutory cap. That means taxpayers will probably have to foot most of the victims' bills once their personal insurance runs out.
Some victims will never work again. Some will never walk again. One young woman was studying to be a doctor. Part of her brain had to be removed. Everyday people just riding the train home from work have had their lives terribly altered forever.
U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly, whose district is home to most of the 2008 Veolia victims, has publicly called on Veolia to take full responsibility for the devastation caused by this terrible train crash and to do the right thing by those victims who have already lost so much.
Gallegly has produced a section on his web site dedicated to the facts of the Chatsworth crash and the plight of the victims. The site contains legislation Gallegly has introduced to raise the cap, testimony from the victims, the NTSB report, depositions, TV news reports, print news reports, and more.
Veolia's website claims it is committed worldwide to "Accountability, especially in Safety."
"Veolia should hold itself fully accountable for this tragic crash and should pay the real lifetime damages to the victims because it is the right thing to do," Gallegly said.
Veolia Transport Worldwide operates in 28 countries. In addition, another Veolia division, Veolia Water, operates in more than 66 countries. In France alone, it services 8,000 communities.