Family sues railroad for mutilating corpse

Feb. 24, 2011 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated Feb. 23, 2011 at 8:24 p.m.

Union Pacific Railroad faces claims of negligently causing the mutilation of a corpse, according to a federal lawsuit.

Plaintiffs Roy and Elvira Canchola, both of Victoria, filed suit Feb. 15 against Union Pacific Railroad on behalf of their deceased son, Roland Rene Canchola.

Becky Barajas, the mother of Roland's children, is also named as a plaintiff.

Roland Canchola, 29, was killed in an automobile accident July 24, 2009, at the intersection of Farm-to-Market Road 616 and Farm-to-Market Road 1593.

As a result of the accident, Roland was ejected from the vehicle and came to rest on the railroad tracks.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Shortly after the accident, the railroad was notified and instructed by the Texas Department of Public Safety not to permit any train to proceed on that section of tracks where Roland and his vehicle were located, the lawsuit said.

This mandate was made to allow law enforcement and emergency medical personnel time to assess the site, perform an investigation of the accident and administer medical care to 23-year-old Floyd Villarreal Valdez Jr., the passenger of the vehicle.

The lawsuit contends that although Union Pacific confirmed the track would be shut down for two miles on either side of the location of the accident, the railroad failed to do so.

Two hours after the accident, Union Pacific sent a train down the tracks, prompting law enforcement and medical personnel to hurriedly evacuate the track.

According to the lawsuit, there was not enough warning to remove Canchola's body from the tracks, resulting in his body being mutilated by the train.

"The defendant's conduct was extreme and outrageous in character. to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community," the plaintiffs said in the lawsuit. "The conduct was outrageous because the defendant knew that there was an investigation of a fatality."

At his funeral, Roland's mutilated corpse could not be displayed in an open casket.

The Cancholas claim the closed casket caused them to suffer severe emotional distress including nervousness, anxiety and the inability to sleep at night, said the lawsuit.

Additionally, it left them unable to gain closure and needing professional counseling services.

"We're holding the railroad company responsible for damages they have caused to the family," said the plaintiffs' attorney, Micah Hatley. "This isn't the only situation where they have hurt or damaged other people."

The plaintiffs are seeking actual damages.

In a response filed Feb. 15, Union Pacific denied all of the plaintiffs' allegations.

"Our hearts go out to the Canchola family and Mr. Valdez following this unfortunate accident," said Raquel Espinoza, director of corporate relations and media for the railroad's southern region. "Union Pacific is reviewing the lawsuit that was recently filed and continues its investigation."



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