CHEYENNE – The widow of a Union Pacific Railroad engineer who died in an October train collision west of Cheyenne has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company.
Union Pacific engineer Jason Martinez and conductor Benjamin Brozovich died Oct. 4 after their mixed-freight train’s brake system malfunctioned and they collided with another train stopped on the tracks. Nobody was in the stopped train at the time of the collision, which occurred about 18 miles west of town.
Between the two trains, 66 cars derailed, causing $2.4 million in damage, according to a report from the National Transportation Safety Board.
Martinez had been a Union Pacific engineer for 12 years, and Brozovich had been with the company for 20. Martinez had three young children.
On the day of the accident, Martinez’s train was heading east to North Platte, Nebraska, when the train’s crew realized the brakes were malfunctioning. The crew radioed the Union Pacific dispatch center to inform dispatch the train had accelerated to 50 mph and was unable to stop. Dispatch informed the crew of the stopped train so they could evacuate before the collision. The final recorded speed of the train before it collided with the stopped train was 56 mph.
The NTSB is still investigating the accident, but a preliminary report released by the board indicates that something in the brake system malfunctioned.
Martinez’s widow, Sheila Martinez, is suing Union Pacific for the wrongful death of her husband and claiming the company was negligent, according to a complaint filed in the First Judicial District Court of Wyoming. She is asking for a six-person jury trial.
Sheila Martinez is arguing Union Pacific had a duty to provide her husband with a safe work environment, and that the company failed to warn her husband “of the hazardous conditions existing with the … train’s brake system.” She is also claiming the company failed to enforce safety rules by failing to properly inspect or maintain the train’s brake system.
In addition to the negligence claim, Sheila Martinez is claiming Union Pacific violated the Locomotive Inspection Act and the Safety Appliance Act. She is asking for damages to cover pain and suffering, funeral expenses and for the loss of her husband’s income.
She is being represented by Henry Bailey Jr., Donald D’Antuono and Jeffrey Chod. Her attorneys declined to comment about the case at this time.
Union Pacific spokesperson Kristen South gave the following statement via email on the company’s behalf: “Union Pacific is aware of the lawsuit, and we have been in contact with counsel for the Martinez family. The NTSB is leading the investigation of the accident. Our thoughts continue to be with Jason’s family and his co-workers.”