(Oak Forest, Illinois – July 21, 2011)
Two elderly women, both believed to be in their 80’s, drove across the 167th Street crossing of Chicago Metra railroad tracks in the heavily wooded area of a forest preserve between Oak Forest and Tinley Park, IL Thursday afternoon. As they crossed the tracks their vehicle was struck and virtually torn apart by a Chicago-bound Metra commuter passenger train. Both women died at the scene.
In addition to the tragic deaths, eight passengers of Train # 420 were taken to several area hospitals for treatment of injuries.
Confused, disoriented, or shielded from the approach of the train by thick trees that parallel both sides of the former Rock Island Railroad tracks in both directions, the women drove across where there are lights and gates, but as yet no proof that either were working.
“We’ll look at everything,” said Metra Spokesperson Judy Pardonnet.
“We’ll look at the signals. We’ll look at the gates.”
Part of the victims’ auto wedged beneath the lead car of the “push/pull” (locomotive on the rear of the train) operation and derailed, but did not overturn, the first car of the train. Travelling as fast as 60 mph, the train continued a quarter of a mile beyond the crossing, forcing the 89 passengers aboard to disembark from the disabled train and walk back along the tracks, past a grisly scene of bloody automobile.
Passengers described the carnage, calling the auto “unrecognizable”, and recalling seeing both a human hand and foot along the railroad right-of-way.
“It’s probably one of the worst hits I’ve seen on the tracks with a car for a long time,” said Oak Forest Fire Chief Terry Lipinski, who’s been with the OFFD for 34 years.