ABC7 (KGO-TV) broke a heartbreaking story last week about the death of 22-year-old Anthony Tuaumu Vaili at a railroad crossing in Richmond, posing the possibility that the tragedy could have been prevented.
The fatal solo car crash on March 14, which also hospitalized some of Vaili’s family members, has led to a wrongful death lawsuit over an unauthorized and damaged guardrail at Regatta Boulevard and 34th Street.
After pulling long hours volunteering at church, Vaili was driving family members home about 6 p.m. when he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a guardrail designed to protect the crossing gate, ABC7 reported. When the crash was initially reported, police had stated Vaili had collided with an “iron pillar,” which went through the windshield and killed him. That iron pillar turned out to be a steel beam from a guardrail that was both damaged and unauthorized and yet allowed to remain there by government agencies and railroad companies, according to Brian Kabateck, the family’s attorney.
The guardrail had been damaged for several years prior to the crash — likely by large trucks navigating turns, ABC7 reported. Questions have been raised about why the damaged and unauthorized guardrail was allowed to remain at the crossing for years despite multiple site visits by representatives of government agencies and railroad companies. The family also questions why a safer and equally effective plastic guard rail that was installed after the fatal crash (pictured below) wasn’t there all along.
Kabateck said the incident was “truly an accident waiting to happen” and has filed a wrongful death lawsuit on the family’s behalf that names Contra Costa County, the city of Richmond and Richmond Pacific Railroad.
The death has devastated loved ones, who described Vaili as a well-loved, religious person who had planned to teach music to underprivileged children.