A Columbia law firm representing John M. Brabham Jr. has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the S.C. Department of Transportation, claiming negligence that led to the death of his son almost two years ago.

John M. Brabham III, 16, was killed shortly after noon on July 23, 2009, when the 2006 Jeep he was driving northbound on Lynam Road collided with an eastbound train.

The S.C. Highway Patrol said at the time that Brabham crossed in front of the train, was struck on the driver’s side and died at the scene. The crossing had active lights and warning bells but no crossing arms.

The lawsuit, filed by the Simmons Law Firm, alleges the transportation department had a legal duty to examine, report and remove hazards from the crossing. It, the lawsuit said, committed gross negligence in allowing vegetation to obscure the sightline of drivers proceeding northbound on Lynam Road.

The Department of Transportation didn’t return a call Tuesday for comment on the lawsuit, which was served July 12, court filings show.

The agency has 30 days to respond to the lawsuit.

On Tuesday afternoon, a crew of CSX construction workers were busy working at the crossing. Carla Groleau, communications director of the Jacksonville, Fla.-based railroad operator, said in an email Tuesday that she was not aware of work at the site and would make calls to find out the purpose of the construction work.

Efforts to reach Brabham were unsuccessful.

Shortly after the teenager’s death, a CSX spokesperson told The Item that the type of signal mechanism at the crossing is determined by the state transportation department, but that CSX installs it and maintains it.

Further allegations in the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, include:

– The DOT failed to follow its own policies of inspection and maintenance.

– The DOT failed to develop or implement a policy to train railroad crossing maintainers, inspectors and managers to identify “particularly dangerous or ultra hazardous crossings” and failed to identify that crossing as “particularly dangerous or ultra hazardous” and to eliminate or reduce dangers to motorists as such.

– The DOT failed to develop or implement a policy for upgrading warning devices by adding automatic gates and suitable flashing signals at “particularly dangerous or ultra hazardous” crossings.

– The DOT failed to remove trees or vegetation that obstructed motorists’ views of approaching trains.

Because of these reasons “John Brabham suffered severe injury and an untimely death,” the lawsuit states.

The death of John Brabham III caused “mental shock and suffering, wounded feelings, extreme mental anguish, great grief and sorrow, loss of companionship, deprivation of the use, comfort and society of a loving son,” the lawsuit also states.