VIA CERTIFIED MAIL
March 4, 2020
Secretary Elaine Chao, Secretary
United States Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20590
RE: BRIGHTLINE FATALITIES
Dear Secretary Chao:
While this is in regard to one specific railroad fatality on the Brightline higher speed rail system, it also concerns other Brightline fatalities and the USDOT’s guidelines for investigations.
We recognize that this is the responsibility of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), however your office oversees that Agency and in particular we wanted to call your attention to this important matter.
Perhaps you have seen a January 29, 2020 article by NPR: “Florida’s Brightline Railroad Is Nation’s Deadliest After High Rate of Track Deaths.”
The one specific fatality we reference is VERONICA L MARTINEZ VORANO who died on November 15th 2019 in Aventura after a Brightline train hit her Mercedes SUV. Her family in Argentina wants to know what happened.
Ives Dairy & W. Dixie Aventura. Site of Ms. Voroano’s accident.
The FRA website states that, among others, “… Generally, FRA investigates accidents and incidents meeting the following criteria:
- Death to three or more persons in a private highway vehicle.”
We reviewed the above criterion with your Atlanta Regional Office and they confirmed that FRA does not investigate the death of one or two people.
Thus, Veronica Vorano’s death then was not investigated by FRA.
I am enclosing a “State of Florida Traffic Crash Report” completed by Miami-Dade police department, which is hardly an investigation.
We have obtained and enclose FRA Fatality/Accident reports summaries of 23 Brightline fatalities available on the FRA website for all of 2019, except December. While you can see how little evidence there is as to what was in the mind of the victim, all were one person. This means all of those fatalities were not investigated by the FRA.
There have been over 42 deaths by Brightline in the past two years. How many of the other 23 deaths were only one or two people. How many total deaths are enough to warrant the attention of the FRA investigators?
Who has the responsibility of investigating these deaths, other than a local official filing an accident report that incorrectly listed the owner of the train.
Does Brightline conduct their own investigations?
I believe there is a possibility there was a signaling issue where the gates closed after Ms. Vorano came upon the tracks and she was trapped. The gate system may have failed to close soon enough and the higher speed train came through the intersection striking her car before she had time to react.
Was there a malfunction of the traffic signal preemption system used to control vehicle traffic near the crossing to prevent collisions? If so, who is responsible for maintaining Traffic signal preemption systems or did the crossing design include such a system at all?
Further, federal laws require all trains traveling over 30 miles per hour to have an event recorder. (Also called On-Train Monitoring Recorder (OTMR), On-Train Data Recorder (OTDR), Event Recorder System (ERS), Event Recorder Unit (ERU), or simply Event Recorder (ER).)
This device records the operational functions of the train, including the train’s speed, the time of day, distance traveled, horn activation, and the use of the train’s braking system.
Where is the event recorder for the Brightline train that killed Ms. Vorano? Who owns it?
It is my understanding there are stationary event recorders at the crossing equipment. Was there an event recorder at the crossing where Ms. Vorano was killed?
I would like to have access to the data from these event recorders for examination and have an authority to do so. It is critical to proving the timing for the events.
It is important to note that on March 20, 2014, in connection with All Aboard Florida (then Brightline; now Virgin USA), Frank A. Frey, Gen. Engineer-HSR for the FederalRailroad Administration recommended in an ON-SITE ENGINEERING FIELD REPORT — Part 1 (also enclosed) that the Aventura crossing where Ms. Verano was killed be closed.
I look forward to a quick response to these issues.
CC: President Donald Trump, United States of America
Honorable Mitch McConnell, U. S. Senate Majority Leader
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
Mr. Kevin J. Thibault, Secretary, Florida Department of Transportation
Florida Congressman Brian Mast
Florida Senator Marco Rubio
Dylan Reingold, County Attorney, Indian River County, FL
Susan Mehiel, Alliance for Safe Trains
Florida State Senator Debby Mayfield