Joshua Alan Roper, a railroad worker for the Alabama State Port Authority, was killed by a train Saturday, September 4, at the McDuffie Coal Terminal, located on the Mobile River at the Alabama State Docks. The McDuffie Coal Terminal is one of the nation’s leading facilities for coal exporting.
The Federal Railroad Administration and state docks police continue to investigate the death of Mr. Roper. Joshua Roper was a Mobile, Alabama resident who began working for the Terminal Railway in April. The shortline railroad owned by the Alabama State Port Authority serves port facilities and adjoining industries in Mobile. One of its major focuses is the McDuffie terminal; the coal loaded onto or unloaded from ships travels by train.
According to the Port Authority, the victim was a ground person on a train crew at the time of the accident. Mr. Roper had been in contact with a terminal railroad engineer in a locomotive that was moving train cars. When the engineer lost contact with the victim, the train was stopped.
Alabama Port Authority officials said that Joshua Roper was a switchman for the Terminal Railway Division at the state docks. An investigation is underway, but so far, railroad officials have not been to locate any witnesses who may have seen the accident. Railroad operations at McDuffie Coal Terminal have been shut down. So far there are no indications that the train violated any procedures.
Although employees of the Alabama Terminal Railway and Alabama state docks are FELA employees, the state has the ability to claim sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity basically says the state itself cannot commit a wrong and is therefore immune from lawsuits. Historically, this doctrine was considered absolute. Today though, it is less clear-cut and sometimes governments waive it. This creates differences in the claims process. Our railroad injury lawyers send condolences to the family of Joshua Roper, especially to his wife, son and parents. You can read here more about how to protect your rights as a railroad employee under the FELA.