Hard Numbers: The value of a human life

In 2005, a Norfolk Southern train went through a misaligned switch in the little town of Graniteville, South Carolina. It crashed into a parked locomotive at the Avondale Mills textile plant. The toxic chlorine gas that spread into the air after the crash killed nine people, sent hundreds to the hospital, and forced thousands to evacuate their homes. The Federal Railroad Administration called it the worst hazardous materials crash in 30 years. The plant shut down, unable to recover from the damage caused by the accident, and thousands lost their jobs. Lawsuits followed, including one that the railroad settled in May of this year. Norfolk Southern agreed to pay $4 million, but admitted no liability.

What happened to Graniteville? I’ll be visiting the town to see how it was changed by the accident, and whether the residents blame the railroad, or just fate. Do they know the accident was preventable with train control technology that had been available for decades? The railroad lists a specific dollar amount as the value of a human life. I wonder if the people of Graniteville would agree.

Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.