(Woodstock, Illinois – February 25, 2015)
A 19-year-old college student and former Illinois high school volleyball player had her life cut short just before 5:00 P.M., CST Wednesday afternoon when her car slipped into the path of a Chicago-bound Metra commuter passenger train at an extremely questionably-designed crossing of Union Pacific Railroad tracks and Lily Pond Road in rural McHenry County, IL, between Woodstock and Crystal Lake, IL.
McHenry Community College student and Belvidere, IL resident Amanda Williams was killed as she rounded an “S” curved, descending grade on the rural road during a snowfall and, although attempting to brake, skidded onto the double-tracked UPRR main line at a crossing. Woodstock Fire Protection District Captain Brendan Parker said the victim was the sole occupant of the vehicle, and that she was pronounced dead at the scene.
The heavily-tree and foliage-lined rail corridor forms virtual tunnels in each direction and, even though equipped with flashing lights and gates, is at the bottom of a descending grade that channels traffic onto the conflicting rail/road route. Woodstock Chief of Police Robert Lowen said that preliminary investigation indicated that the recent snowfall was a “major contributor” to the accident.
Chief Lowen told The Northwest Herald reporter Emily Coleman that “This is just very tragic – just horrible timing,” lamented the chief, who added that “Right now it appears this was an accident related to the icy road conditions.” But Captain Parker pointed out to Reporter Coleman that “The crossing is located at the base of two hills and, when headed south (as the victim was), the road makes a quick curve before the tracks.”
According to Federal Railroad Administration documents, the crossing sees the daily passage of a total of 31 Union Pacific freight and Metra passenger trains at a top allowable speed of 70 mph, mixing with a daily motor vehicular count of 1,800, which include eight crossings by school buses, at a maximum highway speed limit of 30 mph.
Ms. Williams had played volleyball for Belvidere North High School prior to her graduation.