News & Reviews News Wire Metra train hit stalled truck at 60 mph in 2022 accident that killed passenger

Metra train hit stalled truck at 60 mph in 2022 accident that killed passenger

By David Lassen | May 18, 2023

NTSB releases documents from investigation into collision in Clarendon Hills, Ill.

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Stainless steel bilevel passenger car with part of side torn open
A Metra gallery car shows damage from the collision that killed a passenger in May 2022. The National Transportation Safety Board has released the docket of documents from its investigation of the accident. NTSB

WASHINGTON — An inbound Metra BNSF Line train was traveling at 60.9 mph when it struck a 33,000-pound box truck at a grade crossing in Clarendon Hills, Ill., in a May 11, 2022, accident that killed a passenger, according to information in the accident docket released Wednesday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The preliminary accident report was released in June 2022 [see “NTSB releases preliminary report …,” Trains News Wire, June 16, 2022]. The final report, which will determine probable cause and make any safety recommendations, is still pending. The docket, which consists of information gathered during the accident investigation, includes 59 documents with more than 500 pages of data.

Three-quarter view of damage at the front of commuter rail cab car
The damage at the front of the cab car that struck a truck in the fatal collision in Clarendon Hills, Ill. NTSB

Metra train 1242 is normally an all-stops train that would have been slowing for a stop in Clarendon Hills. It was running express because it was behind schedule after a delayed departure to change trainsets because of mechanical problems with the original equipment, according to a report from the rail Operations Group Chair. The train was traveling at 69.8 mph when the engineer spotted the truck stalled on the Prospect Avenue grade crossing and began braking. That group said the crew’s train handling was “not believed to be causal or a contributing factor in this accident.”

The passenger killed was later identified as 72-year-old Christina Lopez of Downers Grove, Ill., who was ejected from the cab car. The train’s conductor told investigators she believed that passenger had been sitting on the engineer’s side, three seats back from the mid-car entry and exit doors on the engineer’s side. That was the location that sustained the most damage, as the truck was rotated by the collision and then struck the lead car behind the doors.

Two other passengers and two crew members were also injured.

Reports at the time suggested the truck may have been caught on the crossing because of traffic resulting from road construction. A suit by Lopez’ family against Metra, BNSF, and Del’s Moving, owner of the truck, claims the road work created unsafe conditions [see “Family of Metra passenger killed … files suit,” June 23, 2022].

Badly smashed truck
The remnants of the truck involved in the fatal Metra collision in Clarendon Hills in May 2022. NTSB

But the report on the driver’s actions indicates he told investigators truck’s engine “suddenly cut off” as the truck crossed the crossing, and when he attempted to restart it, the engine did not make any sound. After multiple restart attempts, he and the two other occupants of the truck exited the vehicle when they saw the train approaching. Crash damage made it impossible for investigators to test the truck’s drive train.

Just 48 seconds elapsed between the moment the truck stalled and the collision, based on security camera footage and data from a crossing gate device at Prospect Avenue. According to the timeline contained in the docket’s Signal and Highway Group Chairs’ Factual Report, the crossing gates’ lights activated 13 seconds after the truck stalled; the gates ere down 11 seconds later, and the collision occurred another 24 seconds after that. The 35 seconds of warning provided by the lights is well above the 20 seconds required by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Among other notable details from the docket:

— According to a medical report, the driver did not have a valid commercial driver medical certificate at the time of the crash, having failed to follow up on a request for information from his cardiologist about a recent heart attack. He also failed to undergo required post-accident U.S. Department of Transportation drug and alcohol testing.

— The truck was in violation of a Clarendon Hills ordinance regarding designated truck routes at the time of the collision, having failed to take the most direct route from the closest non-restricted street to reach its pickup point, according to the Signals and Highway report. The driver had followed directions from a GPS device that did not take truck routes into account.

2 thoughts on “Metra train hit stalled truck at 60 mph in 2022 accident that killed passenger

  1. I have been in a Metra cab car that struck a drunk driver at 53mph at 7:45am. It destroyed the air cables and front scoop and shattered the engineers window. It threw that car about 25-30 feet in the air and then it rolled for a whole block.

    The car was a ball of metal, but first responders got him out and believe it or not he survived.

    But the control cab couldn’t operate anymore and we had to wait an hour for a new consist out of OTC to come out to Melrose Park and have us move over. There were 4 TV helicopters circling above us. Since it was rush hour there were no freights trying to pass through fortunately.

    On the news they said the Metra train was going about 58mph when they saw the car coming and knew he wasn’t stopping and hit the emergency.

  2. I remember this incident…a tragedy for sure. Blaming Metra and BNSF makes no sense (so what else is new?), but they have deep pockets, so just another day in American tort jurisprudence.

    I don’t know if I really believe that the truck’s engine “suddenly cut off”. Given the other documented flakinesses on the part of the driver, it’s not hard to believe he’d make up yet another CYA story.

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