Family of man killed in train crash awarded $19 million - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Family of man killed in train crash awarded $19 million


A Stoddard County, Missouri jury has awarded $19 million to the family of a Steel, Mo. man who was killed in a train crash.

Scott Spence, 53, a well-known Bootheel area businessman, died after his Chevrolet Silverado pickup was hit by a northbound Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train at an unguarded crossing in Pemiscot County.

His wife, Sherry Spence, filed the wrongful death suit against BNSF in 2013.

The Spence family argued the crossing doesn't meet industry standards, and that the rail company had plenty of opportunities to correct the dangers.

They said the crossing at County Road 470, where the crash happened, was marked with only passive railroad crossbuck signs, without active flashing lights, bells or crossing gates to warn of oncoming traffic.

The county road crosses the tracks at an extreme angle.

"There were many near misses at this unprotected crossing prior to 2012," said Cape Girardeau attorney J. Michael Ponder, who represents the family of Scott Spence. "It was clear that this crossing did not meet industry standards. BNSF had hundreds of opportunities to correct the danger, but they continued to gamble with lives, and the death of Mr. Spence was the sad result."

In a joint written statement, the family of Scott Spence said:

"The Spence family is very thankful for the jury's service. The family brought this case in order to hold BNSF accountable and hopefully prevent any future tragedies at dangerous railroad crossings. We all sincerely hope that BNSF will take this verdict as a signal it must improve its railroad crossings by cutting back vegetation so that trains are clearly visible and by installing lights and gates so they are safe for the public."

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