HARRODSBURG — The mother of a Mercer County teenager who was killed last year as she drove across a railroad crossing has filed a lawsuit against the owner of the tracks.
Phillita Jill Ammons, mother of 19-year-old Sophia Ammons, filed the complaint Tuesday in Mercer Circuit Court naming Norfolk Southern and an unnamed person or company possibly contracted to perform maintenance along the tracks as defendants.
The wrongful death action seeks an unspecified amount of damages.
“On Oct. 15, 2011, Sophia Ammons was driving eastbound on Bohon Road in Harrodsburg at approximately 9:20 a.m.,” the lawsuit begins. “At the same time, a Norfolk Southern train was heading westbound out of Harrodsburg toward the Bohon Road crossing.”
The train struck the front end of Sophia Ammon’s pickup truck as it entered the crossing, ejecting her. She died of blunt force trauma to the head, said Deputy Mercer County Coroner Chuck Bugg, who was called to the scene.
The train “failed to properly and timely sound its whistle” as it was approaching the crossing, the complaint alleges. Norfolk Southern also “failed to properly inspect and maintain its crossing signals in spite of knowledge of their periodic malfunctioning,” the lawsuit maintains.
According to the lawsuit, there may have been an adequate line of sight approaching the crossing when the signals were installed, but Norfolk Southern, “over the passage of time, negligently failed to maintain the vegetation and thus allowed the vegetation to obscure the view of a train approaching the Bohon Road crossing from Harrodsburg until the last instance before the crossing when approaching Bohon Road from the direction Sophia Ammons was approaching at this fatal accident.”
The lawsuit indicates that a “John Doe defendant” contracted with Norfolk Southern and failed to control the vegetation and properly inspect and maintain the crossing signal, “causing or contributing to the death of Sophia Ammons.”
Norfolk Southern has not yet responded to the allegations in the complaint, which was filed by Columbus, Ohio, attorneys James Blumensteil and Aaron Falvo, along with David Patrick of Harrodsburg.
In a news story about the fatal crash, Bugg said sunlight would have been shining in the eyes of an eastbound driver at that time of morning, and it was possible the sun made it difficult for Ammons to see the train as she entered the crossing.