Nebraska Victims Latest to Sue over Nevada Amtrak Crash

By SCOTT SONNER | July 8, 2011

A trucking firm that employed a driver who hit the side of an Amtrak train in a fatal crash in the Nevada desert was sued Wednesday on behalf of two victims.

William Knox, 71, of Seward, Neb., sued for a minimum of $10,000 in damages over the loss of his 58-year-old wife, Frances Knox, and 18-year-old granddaughter, Karly Anne Knox.

The suit claimed the John Davis Trucking Co. was negligent by failing to properly hire and train the driver. It was the fourth lawsuit filed in the case.

“The Knox family has been devastated by this tragedy,” said lawyer Bill Bradley, who filed the lawsuit.

The Knoxes were among five people on the train who were killed in the June 24 crash about 70 miles east of Reno, along with the truck driver, Lawrence Valli, 43, of Winnemucca.

Knox’s suit was filed in Washoe District Court by the same lawyers representing an Amtrak attendant from Illinois who last week filed suit against the trucking company.

The company also was named in suits by another train attendant and Amtrak itself. Company officials previously had no comment on the legal proceedings. On Wednesday, they referred The Associated Press to Las Vegas lawyer Steven Jaffee, but he was in a meeting and did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating and so far has found no mechanical problems with the train, including two passenger cars gutted by fire.

Karly Knox was a kidney cancer survivor who had undergone a kidney transplant at age 7, according to William Knox.

The couple formally adopted her and four other grandchildren in 2003 while living near Gilroy, Calif. They later moved to Nebraska. The siblings include a 10-year-old boy and girls ages 12, 14 and 17.

“Now, with the loss of Fran and Annie, Bill is left with the overwhelming responsibility of raising the other four children alone,” Thomas Demetrio, a Chicago lawyer with the lead firm in the case, said in a statement Wednesday.

William Knox declined a request for an interview by The Associated Press and sought privacy so his family could grieve.

“Even in this moment of sadness I feel as though I am a very fortunate man,” Knox said in a prepared statement. “I had Fran as a wife for almost 31 years and though I have no natural children, I had eight children through adoption that have given me great joy and love.”

The suit by Knox repeats most of the allegations in the suit filed on June 28 on behalf of Alexandra Curtis, 38, of Evanston, Ill. The Amtrak attendant was among 20 people injured when the semi-trailer truck slammed into a train passenger car on U.S. Highway 95 about 70 miles east of Reno.

Both suits say Valli ignored railroad crossing gates and warning signals before finally hitting the brakes and skidding 100 yards into the train.

Valli had been driving for John Davis Trucking for about six months. Records show he was ticketed for speeding three times in California over the past four years.

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