Posts Tagged ‘richard d’alessandro’

DOT ‘hero’ awards to 2 Amtrak conductors

Heroism has no timetable, no expectation, no formula. It is displayed instantaneously and accompanied only by rare courage.

Enter, center stage, two UTU heroes – Amtrak conductors Richard d’Alessandro and Loxie Sanders – a couple of regular rails, represented by the UTU and seemingly little different than neighbors down the street.

Richard d’Alessandro with Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo

Their time of extreme selfless bravery came the night of June 24, when a tractor-trailer, traveling at high-speed, plowed directly into Amtrak’s westbound California Zephyr near Lovelock, Nev.

The crunch of steel meeting steel at a highway-rail grade crossing is gut wrenching; the derailing of rail passenger cars, unnerving; the sudden and rapid spread of all-consuming fire, deadly; and the presence of thick smoke, terrifying.

It was at that moment that d’Alessandro and Sanders became heroes. Nobody nominated them. Nobody asked them. Nobody expected it of them. Such is heroism.

With passengers disoriented, injured and frightened — many seemingly hopelessly trapped in two burning passenger cars – d’Alessandro and Sanders demonstrated why highly trained passenger-train conductors are essential for passenger and train safety.

d’Alessandro, initially knocked unconscious by the horrendous collision, awoke to find he was lying outside his passenger car on the ground, an arm broken and finger missing. In complete disregard for his own life, and ignoring his painful injuries, d’Alessandro climbed back into the flaming cars in search of disoriented and injured passengers. First one, then another, and still another, he led and assisted them to safety through emergency exit windows and into waiting arms on the ground.

Only when the two no longer could hear voices or find additional passengers did they take leave of the burning passenger cars.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood with Loxie Sanders

Then Sanders, suffering smoke inhalation and a severely burned hand, remembered conductor Laurette Lee. Where was she? Once again, he climbed back into the mouth of burning and smoke-filled hell. Finding her dead beneath a metal door, Sanders lifted her body and carried it outside and away from the inferno.

Among the first to visit d’Alessandro and Sanders in the hospital following the accident was Amtrak President Joseph Boardman, who had taken the first available flight from Washington, D.C., to be at the scene of this horrific accident that claimed six lives and would have claimed many more had it not been for the selfless actions of d’Alessandro and Sanders.

On Nov. 3, d’Alessandro (UTU Local 166, Salt Lake City) and Sanders (UTU Local 1525, Carbondale, Ill.) were formally recognized in Washington, D.C., by the U.S. Department of Transportation for heroism. In presenting the awards, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood cited both for saving lives “that went above and beyond the call of duty.”

And what did these two still humble heroes have to say after receiving the awards? They credited their classroom training, exercises and structured debriefings required under 49 CFR Part 238 as giving them the knowledge and tools.

Heroism, of course, can’t be legislated or regulated. Heroism comes from the heart and soul, and will long be remembered by dozens alive today only because when tragedy struck, well-trained and dedicated Amtrak conductors d’Alessandro and Sanders were present.

For more information on this accident, click on the following links:

www.ntsb.gov/investigations/2011/miriam_nv.html

www.ntsb.gov/news/2011/111102.html

One of the two burned out Amtrak passenger cars following the Nevada crash.

 

Trucker in Amtrak crash: 9 traffic tickets since 2007

FALLON, Nev. – The truck driver who died when his tractor-trailer slammed into Amtrak’s westbound California Zephyr here June 24, had accumulated nine traffic tickets since 2007 – five for speeding in a commercial vehicle, twice for speeding in his personal automobile, once for a seat belt violation and once for illegally using a cellphone while driving.

Also killed in the highway-rail grade crossing accident was an Amtrak conductor and UTU member – Laurette Lee – and four passengers. Scores were injured, including Amtrak assistant conductor and UTU member Richard d’Alessandro.

Three of truck driver Lawrence Reuben Valli’s five speeding violations were issued while he was a school-bus driver for an unnamed California school system, reports The Los Angeles Times, citing information from the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.

In 2007, according to the San Francisco Examiner, Valli, while operating his own automobile, slammed into the rear of another auto near Reno on I-80 and was ticketed for speeding.

There has been no statement from the National Transportation Safety Board whether Valli was traveling in excess of the highway’s posted speed limit when his truck crashed into the Amtrak train. Skid marks on the highway were found and may help investigators determine the truck’s speed prior to impact.

NTSB member Earl Weener, serving as the agency’s spokesperson at the accident scene, said an outward facing camera in the Amtrak locomotive recorded that the signals and gates were working.

The NTSB said June 27 that a cellphone found in the wreckage, and thought to belong to Valli, will be examined to determine if it was in use while he was driving.

The San Francisco Examiner quoted a spokesperson for the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles that Valli had other offenses on his driving record that could not be disclosed – “Oh, yeah, lots more. He was a busy guy,” the spokesman said. Yet, according to the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles, there is no record of Valli having had his commercial driver’s license suspended or revoked.

As for the trucking company that employed Valli, the Associated Press reported that it had been issued seven safety violations over the past year, and one vehicle had been ordered out of service.

A trucking publication, Fleet Owner, reported, “Make no mistake, along with the lives lost and the injuries caused by the wreck, the crash is a sharp stick in the eye of all those in trucking and government alike who have been very publicly working across numerous fronts this year to increase commercial-vehicle safety performance.”

UTU member dead in Nevada Amtrak-truck crash

FALLON, Nev. – An Amtrak conductor was killed and an assistant conductor seriously injured here June 24 when a tractor-trailer combination rammed the side of a double-deck passenger car of Amtrak’s westbound California Zephyr in a fiery crash at a highway-rail grade crossing. The crash site is some 70 miles east of Reno.

Lee

Killed was conductor and UTU Local 166 member Laurette Lee, age 68, of South Lake Tahoe, Calif.