Family Sues Amtrak for Death of Teenage Girl

In 1970, the Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission included this photograph of the Railroad Bridge at King Street as part of its first statewide plan for historic preservation.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A teenager taking photos on a bridge was killed by an Amtrak train because of the company’s lackluster safety policies, her family claims in state court.

Andrea Lynn Penardo and her sister were attempting to escape the path of a commuter train in October 2016 when the train struck and killed Andrea, according to a complaint filed in Providence County Superior Court. Her sister Elizabeth, who was running ahead of her, safely cleared the last rail as the train passed behind her at 95.5 miles per hour.

The accident occurred on the nearly 200-year-old King Street Bridge in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. The area near the bridge accounts for 40 percent of all railroad fatalities in Rhode Island since 2015, the lawsuit filed Wednesday claims, and it was also the site of two suicides in the late 1990s.

The family reports that, despite its history of being accessed by the public, the girls were able to pass through an “unlocked, unchained” gate in a fence that gave no indication the tracks were still in use.  Assuming a modern train could not use the old stone bridge, the suit reveals the two girls sat down with their “legs dangling off the east side” of the bridge as they took photographs of the nearby waterfront on a Sunday afternoon.

The 18-page complaint highlights the train’s quiet sound and the curve at which it approaches the bridge among the “hidden dangers” Amtrak ignored when it failed to secure the area or place warning signs. Both factors lead to the girls being unaware of the train until it was already rounding the corner, which didn’t give them enough time to escape it. The lawsuit also cites the high speed of the train and the glare of the sun as contributing to the crew’s inability to “discover, warn, or sufficiently slow the train” to avoid striking people on the track.

Penardo’s family seeks damages for wrongful death, negligence and emotional distress. They are represented by Michael J. Kiselica out of Providence, Rhode Island.

Kiselica indicated an interest in providing a comment, but was on medical leave and could not respond by deadline.

Amtrak declined to comment.

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