(Des Plaines, Illinois – April 16, 2013)
The tragic death of a yet to be publicly identified 54-year-old Des Plaines, IL resident at the Des Plaines Metra commuter depot in northeast suburban Chicago Tuesday morning about 7:30 has stirred controversy between police sources, who quickly labeled the death as a “suicide”, and eye-witnesses at the scene who offered statements but became “lost in the shuffle”.
Although a number of Metra travelers, who were waiting for other trains as Metra Train 618, which is an express and is not scheduled to stop at Des Plaines, blew through the depot area and struck the victim with the leading edge of the cab car (the train was in “push” position with the locomotive on the rear of the commuter passenger train consist) near the Pearson Street grade crossing, were in perfect positions to serve as eyewitnesses, their input was ignored.
Several commute passengers among the hundreds delayed by a shutdown of the Union Pacific northwest Metra line as a result of the tragedy offered to give statements to police (who were not identified as UPRR, Metra or city police officers), but were never taken up on their offers (even though traffic on the line was halted for nearly two hours), strongly questioned initial evaluation of the accident as a “suicide.”
Tim Lally of Des Plaines and his unidentified neighbor had arrived at the Des Plaines Metra depot and were awaiting their train’s arrival when they observed the victim talking to an elderly woman just before turning and walking into Train 618’s path. The victim was knocked some 30 to 60 feet forward, landed on the tracks and was run over by the train as the locomotive engineer brought the train to a halt.
“When the train hit, you actually heard the smash, the impact,” Lally told news media representatives, adding that the victim did not realize he was in danger as he made a fatal mistake. “The mistake is there’s nothing to stop you from going directly onto the track. Everywhere else (at the Des Plaines Metra station) the train track is lower, at a lower level, so you really, you can’t make the mistake of wandering onto the track, except for right there at that street. There’s nothing to prevent you from just wandering onto the track. I’m convinced it was an accident.”
Lally added that “The lady who he just got done talking to, the minute it happened, this poor woman just fell to her knees. She was really stricken hard by seeing that, because she was facing him.”
Although Lally and his neighbor repeatedly offered to give statement s to different police officers allegedly investigating the tragedy, they were told “OK,” but each time the officers failed to follow up by taking their statements. “They must know more if they don’t want to interview us,” charged Lally.
Another Des Plaines resident, Steve Schaefer, said that he noticed the victim calmly take three steps and found himself in harm’s way. “He had his hands in his pocket and was wearing a black hood,” recalled Schaefer. “It was surreal.”
Both railroad management and their in-house police forces encourage the labeling of pedestrian tragedies as either “trespassing,” or, as in the case of Tuesday’s tragedy where passengers were in a public place to wait upon passenger trains, “suicide” in order to both escape responsibility as well as accountability.