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Teen who suffered broken neck in Amtrak derailment files lawsuit

A Burien teen who survived the 2017 Amtrak train derailment near DuPont is suing Amtrak, Sound Transit, and WSDOT.

DUPONT, Wash. — A Burien teen who suffered a broken neck in the 2017 Amtrak train derailment near DuPont is suing Amtrak, Sound Transit, and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) 

The teen, Timmy Brodigan, who now depends on a wheelchair to get around, is working every day to regain movement.

Brodigan's attorney, Todd Gardner, claims the negligence of others put his client in this spot and says those people need to be held accountable.

Sound Transit said they are still reviewing the lawsuit. WSDOT and Amtrak sid they don't comment on pending litigation.

For Brodigan, the daily work is emotionally draining and physically exhausting, but he is determined, according to Gardner.

"He'd like his life back. He knows he's not going to get that," said Gardner.

Gardner has visited the Burien teen at Craig Hospital in Denver, a world-renowned facility that specializes in spinal cord injuries.

Brodigan went to that hospital after the derailment that happened near DuPont on Dec. 18, 2017. The Amtrak train was making its inaugural run on the Point Defiance Bypass. The route that was supposed to shave 10 minutes off the trip is where three people were killed and dozens injured.

Brodigan broke his neck in the crash.

"He would have suffered a severe blow to his head because it crushed his C5 vertebrae... it literally exploded. Shards of that bone shot into a spinal cord and that's what caused this profound spinal cord injury," Gardner said. 

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In his lawsuit, Gardner claims the transportation system was rushed into service before it was ready.

"It should never be a learning experience when you have 77 passengers and a crew on a train that's moving 80 miles an hour," said Gardner.

Gardner said instead, the train should have been traveling 30 miles per hour on the curve where it derailed.

He also said that Sound Transit was aware before the derailment that, because of the curve on the route, Positive Train Control could provide added protection. Positive Train Control is a technology designed to stop a train before certain accidents occur. However, that technology was not installed.

"His training was just horribly inadequate. I mean, he had one round trip on this line without supervision," said Gardner, who added that on the day of the derailment, the engineer was in a new locomotive.

"For 20 seconds, his eyes are not on the track. He's trying to figure out what this means, he looks up, he's four seconds from the corner, it's now too late, and his last words were 'we're dead.'" 

For many, what followed was a nightmare. Gardner said for Brodigan, it's one that's still not over. The very athletic teen, now a spinal cord injury survivor, is battling back with a focus on hope and healing.

RELATED: Sound Transit safety chief 'removed' after Amtrak derailment review