MOBILE, Alabama (AP) — A train driver who allegedly chatted on video as his locomotive crashed into heavy equipment on tracks in southern Alabama, killing a Mississippi man, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the crash, court documents show.
James Jeffrey Elder, 49, of Spanish Fort, was indicted last week by a Mobile County grand jury in the death of Dexter Scott of Laurel, Mississippi, reports WKRG-TV.
Elder, who was working on the Alabama Export Railroad at the time of the confrontation, was arrested and released on $75,000 bail. The court records do not include the name of a defense attorney who could have acted on his behalf.
Pritchard police said that Elder was driving a Canadian national train that collided with equipment placing railroad sleepers on track in the city on November 17, 2020.
According to an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, the train was traveling at 19 mph around a curve when it collided with a boom truck, hitting workers with an excavator, killing one contractor and injuring three.
The department found that the driver was distracted by a video conversation on his personal mobile phone while the train was moving, which is a violation of federal rules. The report says that a few minutes before the impact, the engineer removed his hat and placed it in front of a security camera, but the man was still visible holding the phone.
The indictment accused Elder of “reckless use of a cellular device while driving a locomotive” and driving too fast for the conditions.
The engineer was fired and the company took steps, including lowering the speed limit on its tracks, according to a federal investigation.
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