Locomotive engineers Billy R. Hall, 47, Ernest L. Russ, 43, and Mike D. Vinet, 39, were killed when Amtrak’s Sunset Limited train derailed on CSX’s Big Bayou Canot Bridge near Mobile, Ala., on September 22, 1993. All three Brothers belonged to BLE Division 18 in New Orleans, La. Brother Hall hired out on June 1, 1980; Brother Russ hired out on January 1, 1974; and Brother Vinet hired out on July 1, 1979.
The accident was caused by displacement of a span and deformation of the rails when a tow of heavy barges collided with the rail bridge eight minutes prior to derailment. Forty-seven people were killed and 103 more were injured. It is the deadliest train wreck in Amtrak’s history. Three locomotives slammed into the displaced span at approximately 70 miles per hour. The lead locomotive embedded itself nose-first into the canal bank and the other two locomotives, together with the baggage car, sleeping car, and two of the six passenger cars, plunged into the water. Despite the displacement of the bridge, the continuously welded rails did not break. As a result, the track circuit controlling the bridge approach block signals remained closed (intact) and the nearest signal continued to display a clear (green) aspect.