(NEW YORK) — As chaos in the nation’s airports and airspace continues to wreak havoc during the busy summer season, many travelers are left wondering what their rights are during extreme flight delays and cancellations.
Airlines canceled more than 2,000 flights over Memorial Day weekend and 2,800 flights between June 15 to 17, blaming bad weather and staffing issues across the system. Tens of thousands of flights were delayed during the same periods, causing customers to miss connections and scrambling for alternative flights.
What are your rights?
Under federal law, consumers are entitled to a refund if the airline cancels a flight, regardless of the reason, and the consumer chooses not to travel.
Consumers are also entitled to a refund if an airline “made a significant schedule change and/or significantly delays a flight and the consumer chooses not to travel,” according to the Department of Transportation (DOT).
The hang-up — DOT has not defined what constitutes a “significant delay.” According to the agency, whether you are entitled to a refund depends on multiple factors, including the length of the delay, the length of the flight and “your particular circumstances.”
In most cases, airlines will first offer you a travel voucher for future travel, Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, told ABC News.
“You do not have to click there and accept that travel voucher, because under federal law you’re entitled to a full cash refund,” Keyes said. “You may have to call the airline and demand to get that cash refund rather than the voucher.”
Keyes also said to contact the party you booked your travel with, whether that be the airline itself or a third-party like a travel agency.
“You have to go through whoever you booked your flight with. And so, if you booked it with a third party with an online travel agency, that’s who you’re going to have to chat with,” Keyes said. “The best practice is actually to book directly with the airline if the price is the same. Because when things go wrong, when they’re delays or cancelations, it’s far simpler.”
There are situations, however, where consumers are not entitled to a refund. According to DOT, travelers who purchase nonrefundable tickets, but are unable to travel for a personal reason, such as being sick or late to the airport, are not entitled to a refund.
What if your flight is oversold and you’re denied boarding?
On occasion, airlines may bump passengers from a trip when the flight is oversold. In cases such as this, airlines must first ask passengers to give up their seats voluntarily in exchange for compensation, according to DOT.
There is no limit on the amount of money or vouchers the airline can offer you, and passengers are free to negotiate.
If there aren’t enough volunteers in these situations, airlines can select passengers and involuntarily bump them off the flight. If you’re one of the unlucky few, the airline is required to compensate you in certain situations — including if the passenger had a confirmed reservation, the passenger checked into their flight on time, arrived to the gate on time, and if the airline cannot get you to your destination within one hour of your flight’s original arrival.
What if you decide to change your flight?
Consumers should know most U.S. carriers did away with change fees during the pandemic — meaning if you decide to change your flight, you’ll only have to pay the difference in fare.
For those flying this July 4th weekend — Delta Air Lines specifically is waiving all fare differences for travel between July 1 and 4 — meaning customers with flights booked on those dates can change their ticket at no extra cost.
Those customers will not incur any fare difference or change fee if they rebook flights between the same origin and destination and remain in the same cabin of service as originally booked, Delta said. The rebooked travel needs to take place by July 8, 2022.
(NEW YORK) — As Americans head to crowded airports for a revival of European summer vacations, it looks like next year will be more expensive for those headed to the European Union.
A 7 euro fee, translating to $7.42, is expected to go into effect in May 2023 for foreign visitors aged 18 to 70 years old as part of a new European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), according to the European Commission.
As part of the system, travelers will have to apply for authorization through the official website or app before their trip abroad.
ETIAS is intended to increase revenue for the EU and to create a central data repository on non-Europeans who visit the area.
“EU Member States’ border management authorities currently have little information about travellers exempt from visa requirements entering the EU,” Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency who will have a key role in the new system, said in a statement.
“ETIAS will therefore be an important means of addressing this information gap by supporting security screening and risk assessment of travellers, reinforcing the internal security of the Schengen Area,” the agency added.
The European Commission said that ETIAS will be a largely automated system used to identify security, irregular migration or high epidemic risks posed by visa-exempt visitors traveling to the Schengen States, which refers to 26 European countries including France, Italy, Germany and Greece.
ETIAS will also facilitate the crossing of borders for the vast majority of travelers who do not pose the aforementioned risks.
The European Commission said that most travelers who apply for the ETIAS authorization will be approved within minutes. The estimated 5% of travelers who aren’t, the commission said, could receive the travel authorization in up to 30 days.
Once granted, the authorization will be valid for three years or until the expiration date of an individual’s travel document, such as a passport.
The authorization will be checked by border guards along with other travel documents.
ETIAS was first proposed by the European Commission in 2016, and has since faced negotiations within the commission’s legislation. Now, the system will become enacted by mid-2023, the commission said.
“Our police officers and border guards need to have the right tools to do their jobs – keeping our citizens safe and our borders secure. ETIAS will pre-screen visa-free visitors for potential security problems, while the reinforced eu-LISA will allow us to continue to modernise EU-wide information systems for law enforcement and border management,” Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King said following the 2018 agreement by the commission to establish ETIAS.
ETIAS adds to the preexisting Schengen visa system, which did not require such authorization from visitors from at least fifty countries around the world, including the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The European Commission began discussing the new system after it was found that an estimated 30 million visitors came to the EU without being required to have a Schengen visa.
ETIAS has similar characteristics to the United States’ Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which is available to travelers from countries granted a Visa Waiver Program.
In May, the fee for ESTA increased from $14 to $21, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
(NEW YORK) — An abortion clinic with locations in four states was developing plans to expand its operations just as news broke that Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. case that enshrined abortion as a constitutional right, was overturned by the Supreme Court.
Just The Pill, which was founded in 2020, provides reproductive health care services in Colorado, Minnesota, Montana and Wyoming. They also currently operate two mobile clinics in Colorado. The services Just The Pill provides include medication abortion, which is an abortion procedure that uses a combination of pills to terminate a pregnancy.
The group announced it would build a fleet of mobile clinics that would travel across the country, specifically in states where abortion remains legal yet surrounding states have banned the procedure, such as Illinois and New Mexico.
“We are undaunted,” Dr. Julie Amaon, medical director of Just One Pill, wrote in a public statement after the Supreme Court decision was announced on June 24.
“We will bring care to the people who most need it, and we will defy reproductive repression by providing more affordable and accessible care.”
Following the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, nearly all abortions have ceased in 13 states.
Just The Pill’s mobile clinics in Colorado see patients for surgical abortion procedures, on average 16 patients a day, and for abortion medication pick-up, on average 50 patients a day, Amaon told ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast.
The vans take approximately eight months to build and are nondescript, devoid of signage and bulletproof in an effort to keep patients and staff safe, Amaon said. “You wouldn’t know what was inside them if you saw them from the outside,” Amaon told “Start Here.”
Medication abortions are being hailed as a crucial alternative in states where abortions are now illegal because they can be picked up across state lines, or mailed by groups such as Aid Access, a European organization that has said it will not stop mailing the abortion pill across the U.S.
The medication is called mifepristone, and it is usually taken with a second medication called misoprostol. Mifepristone was approved by the FDA in 2000, and in 2021 it was announced that doctors could prescribe the medication by mail.
At the National Right to Life Committee convention last weekend, restricting access to medication abortion was discussed as the next stage of the “fight,” CNN reported.
Conservative lawmakers in South Dakota and Georgia have recently passed legislation that makes it harder to get abortion pills by mail.
“I don’t believe that telemedicine abortions are safe for individuals, for women to conduct at home, many times they’re doing it unsupervised,” South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem told ABC News’ “This Week.”
The FDA says mifepristone is safe and effective.
Medication abortions accounted for more than half of all abortions in 2020, according to data published by the research and policy non-profit Guttmacher Institute. The medication is taken within the first 10 weeks of the pregnancy, according to the FDA.
Just The Pill steps into the spotlight alongside telehealth providers Choix, which was founded in 2020 and provides abortion medication in California, Colorado, Illinois and New Mexico, and Hey Jane, which was founded in 2021 and provides medication abortion in New York, California, Washington, Illinois, Colorado and New Mexico.
Choix is planning to expand its operations to “every state where we can safely and legally provide abortion care,” said CEO Cindy Adam.
“Our goal is to be in every single one of those states by the end of 2023,” said Adam.
Hey Jane is also planning a “geographic expansion” of its operations, according to CEO Kiki Freedman, adding, “our top priority is accommodating the significant increase in demand in the states we’re currently in.”
On Friday, in light of the Supreme Court decision, the Biden administration announced it would move to protect access to mifepristone as well as contraception, and direct the Department of Health and Human Services to “take steps to ensure that these critical medications are available to the fullest extent possible.” The White House address did not mention misoprostol.
Just The Pill’s mobile clinic project, called “Abortion Delivered,” hopes to expand its fleet to 30 vans, with a timeline that is “dependent on funding,” according to a company spokesperson. The second fleet will be in Illinois and the following fleets will travel to New Mexico and Pennsylvania.
(NEW YORK) — A 20-year-old woman was fatally shot in the head while pushing her 3-month-old baby in a stroller on New York City’s Upper East Side on Wednesday night, police sources said.
The killing appears to be targeted but a motive is not yet clear, police sources told ABC News. NYPD detectives are digging into the victim’s life and relationships.
The unidentified woman was pushing a baby stroller on Lexington Avenue and East 95th Street around 8:25 p.m. when a man wearing a black hooded sweatshirt came up from behind and shot her in the head, police said.
An unknown person approached her and fired a single shot at close range, police said. The suspect fled immediately afterward on foot, traveling east along East 95th Street, according to the NYPD. He was last seen wearing a hooded sweatshirt and sweatpants.
Police said the baby was unharmed.
No arrests have been made and an investigation is ongoing, police said.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams tweeted overnight, “More guns in our city means more lives lost. It means more babies crying as those who love them lie dead. We cannot allow this epidemic to keep claiming lives.”
This shooting comes less than one week after the Supreme Court struck down a New York law that has restricted the concealed carry of handguns in public to only those with a “proper cause.”
On Thursday the New York legislature will reconvene in a special session to address the fallout.
State lawmakers are expected to vote on “sensitive places” where guns are off limits, including: health and medical facilities; polling places; public transportation; educational institutions; children’s gathering places; and federal, state and local government buildings.
Proposed legislation also includes a default position against guns indoors, requiring business owners to put up sign saying “conceal carry weapons welcome here” if they want to allow guns on their premises.
ABC News’ Will Gretsky contributed to this report.
(BIBB COUNTY, Ala.) — A manhunt is underway in Alabama for a suspect who allegedly shot two Bibb County Sheriff’s deputies, officials said.
The shooting occurred Wednesday afternoon on Highway 25 in the Cahaba River Wildlife Management Area during the pursuit of a stolen vehicle, according to Bibb County District Attorney Michael Jackson.
Authorities identified the suspect as 26-year-old Austin Patrick. He’s considered to be armed and extremely dangerous, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said.
Hall has a criminal record with 72 different charges since 2012, including assault, attempting to elude police and resisting arrest, authorities said. He tried to choke a corrections officer in Calhoun County in 2020, according to the ALEA. Hall was released from Calhoun County Jail in April.
The condition of the deputies has not been released at this time.
ABC News’ William Gretsky contributed to this report.
(SAN ANTONIO) — Four men have been charged in connection with the alleged migrant smuggling operation that took the lives of 53 people who were trapped in the sweltering heat of a tractor-trailer in Texas.
Homero Zamorano Jr., 45, of Pasadena, Texas, was charged with one count of alien smuggling resulting in death on Wednesday. Zamorano was allegedly the driver of the truck that was found outside San Antonio. Mexican investigators said the driver allegedly tried to pass himself off to authorities as one of the surviving migrants.
On Tuesday, police arrested Christian Martinez, 28, in Palestine, Texas, after they discovered he was in contact with Zamorano about the alleged smuggling operation.
If convicted, Zamorano and Martinez face up to life in prison and possibly the death penalty.
Martinez had a court appearance on Tuesday and is being transported to San Antonio, while Zamorano has a scheduled court appearance for Thursday, authorities said.
Two other men have been arrested in connection with the truck deaths on gun charges, according to federal authorities.
Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez and Juan Francisco D’Luna-Bilbao were identified as unauthorized migrants in possession of multiple weapons, according to federal authorities.
D’Luna-Bilbao was traced to the semi-truck when he was seen near the residence connected to the truck’s registration, according to a U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives affidavit. After he was stopped by police, Bilboa allegedly admitted to possessing a firearm, according to court documents.
D’Luna-Mendez was also stopped near the residence connected to the semi-truck’s registration, where he allegedly admitted to possessing multiple firearms at the home.
D’Luna-Mendez and D’Luna-Bilbao have detention hearings scheduled for Friday. They face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison plus fines on the ATF charges.
The incident unfolded in the southcentral Texas city on Monday evening at around 5:50 p.m. local time, when a nearby worker heard a cry for help and found the tractor-trailer with the doors partially opened and the bodies of 46 people inside, according to San Antonio Police Chief Bill McManus and San Antonio Fire Department Chief Charles Hood.
The trailer was refrigerated but did not have a visibly working air-conditioning unit and there were no signs of water inside, according to Hood.
An additional 16 people — 12 adults and four children — had been transported to area hospitals in what officials called a “mass casualty event.”
The victims taken to hospitals were hot to the touch and all suffering from heat stroke and heat exhaustion, Hood said. There were no child fatalities that authorities know of so far, he added.
“They suffered, horrendously, could have been for hours,” Hood said.
Chris Magnus, the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told reporters he was “horrified” by the incident.
“Horrified at this tragic loss of life near San Antonio,” Magnus said Monday. “This speaks to the desperation of migrants who would put their lives in the hands of callous human smugglers who show no regard for human life.”
Of the 53 bodies in the custody of the medical examiner’s office, 40 are male and 13 are female, the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office said Wednesday
Rebeca Clay-Flores, the Bexar County Precinct 1 commissioner, said at a press conference Tuesday that some of those found are under the age of 18, likely teenagers.
Thirty-seven of the victims have potential identification, officials said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said those who have been identified so far were from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. The criminal investigation remains ongoing, as Homeland Security Investigations and its partners continue to work to identify all of the victims, according to ICE.
It’s the deadliest incident of human smuggling in U.S. history, an HSI spokesperson told ABC News on Tuesday.
Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, citing information provided by U.S. authorities, said the dead included 22 Mexican citizens, seven Guatemalan citizens and two Honduran citizens. The other victims have yet to be identified and Mexico is working with the U.S. on an investigation, according to Ebrard.
“We are in mourning,” Ebrard said in a statement Tuesday via Twitter. “Huge tragedy.”
Hood told ABC News that the the smell of meat tenderizer, which was reportedly put on top of the bodies before the suspects fled, was overwhelming.
Hood said there were personal items near where the bodies were found, including prayer cards in Spanish and a new pair of Air Jordans.
President Joe Biden issued a statement Tuesday calling the deaths “horrifying and heartbreaking,” blaming the criminal smuggling industry for preying on migrants. Biden also highlighted the anti-smuggling campaign the U.S. has launched with its partners, saying they have made more than 2,400 arrests.
“Exploiting vulnerable individuals for profit is shameful, as is political grandstanding around tragedy, and my Administration will continue to do everything possible to stop human smugglers and traffickers from taking advantage of people who are seeking to enter the United States between ports of entry,” Biden said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott confirmed Wednesday that the truck had not been inspected by Border Patrol, despite passing through a border checkpoint.
“It was not inspected because the Border Patrol does not have the resources to be able to inspect all of the trucks,” Abbott said.
Abbott announced that the Texas Department of Public Safety will add additional truck checkpoints, beginning immediately. He said they will target trucks like the one involved in the migrants’ deaths.
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar sent Biden a letter, requesting a meeting and assistance. Salazar wrote he was “angry” that he has made several appeals to the administration, without response. He also criticized the “lack of action” that has allowed Abbott to use this as a “campaign stunt.”
Making statements Wednesday, Abbott blamed Biden, saying Biden was warned in advance that reduced border enforcement would lead to dire consequences. Abbott said those consequences are a record number of people crossing the border illegally, a greater sense of lawlessness coming from not enforcing the law, increased brazenness by cartels because the federal government is not pushing back against them and the death of the 53 people on the truck.
“Many of these deaths could be prevented if Biden simply fully funded the border patrol operation of the United States of America and implemented the policies that the border patrol needs in order to do their real job and their real job is not the paper-processing work that they have been assigned to do. Their real job is both to secure the border as well as to do things like inspect the vehicle that was carrying those people who lost their lives,” Abbott said.
ICE said initially that HSI agents found more than 40 deceased individuals upon arrival at the scene on Monday when responding to a call from the San Antonio Police Department regarding “an alleged human smuggling event.”
“HSI continues its enforcement efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of our communities,” ICE said in its statement. “We will continue to address the serious public safety threat posed by human smuggling organizations and their reckless disregard for the health and safety of those smuggled. To report suspicious activity, we encourage people to call the HSI Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. All calls are kept confidential.”
HSI is the arm of ICE responsible for taking down smuggling networks.
The San Antonio Fire Department confirmed to ABC News that HSI and CBP are taking over the investigation from local authorities.
CBP is the umbrella agency of the U.S. Border Patrol, which responded to assist at the scene and is supporting ICE in the federal investigation, according to Magnus, the CBP commissioner.
“We will be working with our federal, state and local partners to assist in every way possible with this investigation,” Magnus told reporters Monday night.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Biden administration will “continue to take action to disrupt human smuggling networks which have no regard for lives.”
“Our prayers are with those who tragically lost their lives, their loved ones, as well as those still fighting for their lives. We are also grateful for the swift work of federal, state and local first responders,” Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday.
When asked about the criticism from Republicans, including Abbott, who say Biden’s border policies have led to dangerous journeys for immigrants, Jean-Pierre said the White House is focused on the victims and their families.
“But the fact of the matter is, the border is closed, which is in part why you see people trying to make this dangerous journey using smuggling networks,” Jean-Pierre said.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas took to Twitter to say that he was “heartbroken by the tragic loss of life today and am praying for those still fighting for their lives.”
“Far too many lives have been lost as individuals — including families, women, and children — take this dangerous journey,” he tweeted Monday night. “Human smugglers are callous individuals who have no regard for the vulnerable people they exploit and endanger in order to make a profit. We will work alongside our partners to hold those responsible for this tragedy accountable and continue to take action to disrupt smuggling networks.”
Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security released more details on the Biden administration’s efforts to combat human smuggling and unauthorized migration in conjunction with the Summit of the Americas held in Los Angeles.
The series of operations launched across the Western Hemisphere is part of the largest human smuggling crackdown ever seen in the region, with more than 1,300 deployed personnel and nearly 2,000 smugglers arrested in just two months.
Agencies from across the administration, including the intelligence community and the U.S. Treasury Department, have engaged to disrupt smuggling operations in real-time and strip down the financial backing of the transnational criminal organizations that coordinate these crimes.
“The Biden administration is focused on putting these organizations out of business,” DHS said in a recent statement prior to Monday’s incident. “But human smuggling is, by definition, a transnational problem and we are committed to working with our regional partners in the Americas to commit our collective expertise and resources to put an end to human smuggling.”
ABC News’ Luke Barr, Marilyn Heck, Matt Gutman, Robert Zepeda, Anne Laurent, Scottye Kennedy and Josh Margolin contributed to this report.
(COLUMBUS) — A 14-year-old tiger has died from health complications after contracting COVID-19 at an Ohio zoo, officials said.
Jupiter, a 14-year-old Amur tiger, passed away on Sunday after officials at the Columbus Zoo confirmed that he had developed pneumonia which was caused by the COVID-19 virus.
“On Wednesday, June 22, Jupiter was reported by his care team to be acting ill. (He was not interested in eating, and was reluctant to stand, move or interact with keepers.),” the zoo wrote in a statement on social media. “When this continued into the next day, Jupiter was anesthetized for examination and treatment. Initial exams suggested an infection, and treatment was started.”
To complicate matters, Jupiter had been dealing with long-term treatment of some chronic underlying illnesses, said the Columbus Zoo, and this made him more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus.
“Unfortunately, Jupiter did not improve with this treatment and remained reluctant to move and eat,” officials continued. “The following day, he was given additional treatments and had more diagnostic testing.”
Jupiter passed away on Sunday and is the first animal at the Columbus Zoo to succumb to COVID-19, the zoo said.
“Jupiter’s care team remembers him as a big and impressive tiger who loved fish, sleeping in the habitat’s cave, playing with cardboard boxes, and interacting with another favorite item — a 75-pound firehouse “plus sign” that was heavy for keepers to move but something he carried around like it weighed nothing,” said the Columbus Zoo. “His care team also fondly remembers the trust they built with Jupiter over time through training and how he was always very friendly with the female tigers, Mara and Natasha.”
Jupiter was born on July 9, 2007, at the Moscow Zoo in Russia but eventually ended up at the Columbus Zoo on March 19, 2015, after spending the first half of his life at the Zoo Dvur Kralove in the north of the Czech Republic.
Jupiter leaves quite a legacy and sired nine cubs during his life — six of which were born at the Columbus Zoo — which officials say has contributed to the future of Jupiter’s endangered species.
Employees at the Columbus Zoo require their staff working with cats, great apes, otters and wolverines — among other species — to wear masks whenever they come within six feet of the animal as a precautionary measure.
Said the zoo: “Jupiter will be greatly missed…Please keep our Asia Quest team in your thoughts.”
(ELGIN, S.C.) — A 3.5 magnitude earthquake struck near Elgin, South Carolina, on Wednesday, the U.S. Geological Survey confirmed.
The latest quake comes after a 3.4 earthquake hit the area, 6.4 miles from Elgin, on Sunday.
More than 3,000 people reported feeling Wednesday’s quake, according to USGS. Due to the shallow nature of the earthquake, it could be felt in a wider area, the agency said.
South Carolina has been the site of a few earthquakes already this year.
In May, a 3.3 magnitude earthquake struck Columbia and was felt in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Augusta, Georgia, according to ABC News affiliate WPDE in Florence, South Carolina.
Elgin is 25 miles from Columbia.
While other states, such as California, often draw more attention for having earthquakes, South Carolina experiences between 10 and 15 earthquakes a year, the South Carolina Emergency Management Division said.
(MENDON, Mo.) — Federal investigators are working to determine if an Amtrak train was traveling at a speed limit of 90 mph when it plowed into a dump truck at a Missouri railroad crossing, killing four people and injuring 150, officials said.
Jennifer Homendy, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said she expects investigators to know by the end of Wednesday the exact speed of the train after analyzing information from its event recorder.
“In this area, the speed limit is 90 miles per hour,” Homendy said at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon.
The crash unfolded at 12:43 p.m. Monday, when the Amtrak train — comprised of two locomotives, six coach cars, cafe car and a baggage car — crashed into the rear of a truck hauling aggregate, or crushed rock, to a nearby Army Corps of Engineers project. The collision caused the train to completely derail, sending the locomotive and cars toppling onto their sides, according to the NTSB.
The train was en route from Los Angeles to Chicago with 275 passengers and 12 crew members on board at the time of the crash, Amtrak said. Three people aboard the train were killed and 150 passengers and crew were injured. A person in the dump truck was also killed.
The dead passengers were identified on Wednesday by the Missouri State Highway Patrol as Binh Pham, 82, of Kansas City, Missouri, and Rochelle Cook, 57, and Kim Holsapple, 56, both of Desoto, Kansas. The driver of the dump truck who was killed was identified as Billy Barton II, 53, of Brookfield, Missouri, according to the highway patrol.
Homendy said the crash occurred at what she described as a “passive crossing” that was not controlled by railroad crossing bars, flashing warning lights or bells.
Homendy expressed frustration that NTSB recommendations made as far back as 1998 to upgrade passive crossings to “active crossings” — ones that are controlled by crossing bars, lights and bells — have not been heeded.
“Anytime our recommendations aren’t heeded, of course, I’m upset because we see tragedy after tragedy after tragedy and numerous fatalities and injuries,” Homendy said. “It’s very frustrating for our investigators, very frustrating, when they are on scene and they know what would have prevented this.”
She said the cost of upgrading the crossing grade where the wreck occurred would have cost roughly $400,000.
“I do not have concerns about mechanical failure about the train, any mechanical issues with the train. We do not have concerns about the track,” Homendy said. “Our concerns are very focused on this grade crossing, the approach to the grade crossing and survivability after an accident.”
Homendy said she confirmed with the director of the Missouri Department of Transportation that the crossing was on a list of crossings they wanted to upgrade.
She said the funds to upgrade the crossing would come from Chariton County, the state and the BNSF Railway Co., which owns and operates the track.
However, Homendy noted that there are 3,500 similar passive railroad crossing in the Missouri, or about half of the state’s railroad crossings.
Nationwide, there are 130,000 passive railroad crossings, Homendy said.
The NTSB also recommended in 1998 that roadway vehicles include technology for roadway that could alert drivers of the presence of a train on an approach to a grade crossing.
“We still don’t see action on that. It’s been 24 years and that recommendation is still as important today as it was in 1998. Lives could be saved,” Homendy said.
Mike Spencer, a farmer in the Mendon area, told ABC affiliate station KMBC in Kansas City, Missouri, that he’s warned local officials that the crossing was dangerous, particularly for drivers unfamiliar with the crossing. Spencer said the crossing has a steep incline that rises 6 feet and because the railroad tracks sit at an angle, it’s difficult to see train approaching trains.
Spencer said he was once almost hit by a train at the same crossing.
“I was afraid this was going to happen to somebody that was not really familiar with the crossing and how to approach it,” Spencer said. “It’s just a nightmare. I look at this and I just can’t believe it.”
Spencer said he has been working with the Chariton County commissioners to make some safety changes at the crossing and other and others in the area. He said he thought the changes were going to be made in 2021, but they were put off.
Meanwhile, a law firm announced Wednesday that it has been hired by a Kansas couple who was injured in the crash.
Kristofer Riddle, a partner at the Clifford Law Offices in Chicago, said his firm is launching its own investigation into the crash as part of a pending lawsuit against Amtrak and the company that owned the dump truck involved in the crash.
“Uncontrolled grade crossings are inherently dangerous,” Riddle said in a statement. “Clifford Law Offices will conduct its own investigation into what occurred, but inevitably negligence is involved, and the stakes are very high when a high-speed passenger train is involved.”
Clifford’s law firm was part of a legal team that won a $16.75 lawsuit against Amtrak in a 2017 train derailment in DuPont, Washington, that killed three people and injured 65. The law firm is also suing Amtrak and the BNSF Railway Co. on behalf of 40 passengers injured in 2021 train derailment near Joplin, Montana.
“We continue to receive inquiries from others who were aboard the train in Missouri,” Riddle said. “People want answers, and they deserve answers.”
(NEW YORK) — The widow of a Chinese food delivery worker who was fatally shot is speaking out after her husband’s alleged killer was released on bail.
Glenn Hirsch, 51, was arrested in New York City on June 1 for the alleged murder of Zhiwen Yan, a Chinese food delivery worker, who was shot in the chest on April 30 while riding his scooter in the neighborhood of Forest Hills, Queens.
A judge ordered Hirsch to be released to home confinement on Monday after posting $500,000 in bail.
“I am devastated and heartbroken that the person who targeted and killed my husband has been released on bail. He is a danger to our community and his presence in the community where I live and work makes me feel unsafe,” Yan’s wife, Eva Zhao, said in a statement obtained by ABC News on Tuesday. “I thank the District Attorney and the police for their efforts in obtaining and enforcing an order of protection for me, and I have faith that we will get justice for my husband, Zhiwen Yan.”
The Queens District Attorney’s Office told ABC News on Wednesday that although prosecutors “asked the court to remand the defendant without bail, the court set bail in a very substantial amount while agreeing to impose conditions we requested, including house arrest and electronic monitoring. Any violation of the terms or conditions could result in bail being revoked.”
The DA’s office added that prosecutors ensured that Hirsch was fitted with an electronic monitoring device prior to his release to home confinement.
Hirsch was arrested earlier this month and charged with 10 counts, the most serious of which is second-degree murder, as well as several counts of criminal possession of a weapon and stalking, according to charging documents obtained by ABC News.
If convicted, Hirsch could face as much as life in prison, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.
“As alleged, a petty dispute over a take-out order became an obsessive point of contention for the defendant who began to stalk and harass employees at the restaurant for months,” Katz said in a statement on June 2. “The tragic end result was the murder of a hard-working employee, who left behind a devastated family and a grieving community.”
Hirsch pleaded not guilty on June 3 according to New York ABC station WABC. At the time, his attorney told reporters he believes that authorities arrested “the wrong man,” WABC reported.
ABC News has reached out to Hirsch’s attorney, Michael Horn, for additional comment.
Yan, 45, worked at a Chinese restaurant in Queens called The Great Wall for more than 20 years and had three jobs to support his wife and his young daughter, WABC reported in May.
According to prosecutors, the suspect was a customer of The Great Wall who had multiple prior disagreements with the establishment over orders, including a dispute over the amount of duck sauce he received in an order. Hirsch menaced the restaurant manager with a gun and twice vandalized vehicles owned by his staff, police told ABC News.
In one instance, Hirsch arrived at The Great Wall with a gun drawn asking “do you remember me,” and then proceeded to slash the restaurant owner’s tires, according to Katz.
A witness told police that an older model Lexus SUV fled the murder scene, the same type of vehicle driven by Hirsch.
Authorities said in May that the shooter fired several times before fleeing eastbound on 67th Drive in a gray or tan sedan.
Ahead of Hirsch’s release on bail, several New York lawmakers, including Rep. Grace Meng, issued a joint statement on Saturday opposing his potential release and calling it “terrifying and unsettling.”
“Someone who is a clear and present danger should not be released back into the community that still grieves Zhiwen Yan’s death,” the lawmakers said. “We have been in touch with the 112th Precinct to get assurances that Glenn Hirsch’s weapons have been confiscated and won’t be returned to him if bail is granted, that he won’t be able to legally purchase additional firearms, and that his movements will be closely monitored including a ban on going near the Great Wall Restaurant and its delivery zones.”
Hirsch’s wife, Dorothy Hirsch, was arrested on June 3 on weapons charges after authorities seized 8 handguns and ammunition from her home, according to charging documents obtained by ABC News.
Dorothy Hirsch, 62, was charged with several counts of unlawful possession of firearms and is out on $150,000 bail. Her attorney Mark Bederow told ABC News in a phone interview on Wednesday that she pleaded not guilty and her next court date is July 12.
“She is not guilty of knowingly possessing firearms which were found in a closet being utilized by Glenn Hirsch to store his junk in large trash bags and boxes,” Bederow said, adding that while the couple maintained separate residences, the couple was not separated and Glenn Hirsch had a closet at his wife’s apartment.
“She had no knowledge of those items being in the apartment. We believe this is a heavy-handed leverage ploy to gain her cooperation in the case against him which she had nothing to do with,” Bederow added.
Yan’s death came amid a spate of attacks and a rise in hate crimes targeting Asian Americans in New York City and across the nation.
ABC News’ Aaron Katersky and Ahmad Hemingway contributed to this report.