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Worker noticed a protruding beam prior to fatal Alabama train incident, but didn’t report it

Several days before a Norfolk Southern conductor trainee was killed by a metal beam protruding from a parked railcar on the next track, workers at a U.S. Pipe facility noticed the beam was hanging off the top of the car but never told the railroad about it, federal investigators say.

The National Transportation Safety Board released those details this week in a report on the interviews it conducted after Walter James Griffin was killed near Bessemer, Alabama, on Dec. 13. Investigators won’t release their final report on the death until later.

The accident happened as Griffin’s train was passing another train that was in the process of picking up several cars that had been parked on a siding, including ones loaded with scrap metal from U.S. Pipe’s nearby facility. The beam struck Griffin in the head as it smashed into the locomotive he was riding in and injured the conductor sitting behind him with broken glass.

U.S. Pipe officials didn’t immediately respond to a message Wednesday.

Griffin’s family sued Norfolk Southern in the spring over his death. That lawsuit remains pending.

Norfolk Southern is one of the nation’s largest freight railroads, operating in the eastern United States.

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