(Hometown, Illinois – December 28, 2015)
Poorly maintained, snow and ice-covered Chicago area thoroughfares were thought to be contributing factors in a multiple tragedy that killed two female cousins, the driver and the front-seat passenger, of a Chevrolet Malibu which was traveling westbound on 87th street at the point where it perpendicularly meets Pulaski Avenue and is crossed diagonally by Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Rail Corporation (METRA)-owned double-tracked main line rails. The railroad tracks carry a daily average of 38 METRA and Norfolk Southern freight trains that travel at maximum-permissible speeds of 79 mph. The victims’ vehicle became stuck in highway traffic and unable to move out of harm’s way in time to avoid collision with a METRA commuter passenger train that came barreling through the intersection early Monday afternoon at about 1:30 P.M., CST.
Killed in the accident at the corporate line of where Chicago and near-southwest suburb Hometown adjoin were cousins Juniel Kemp, 20, and Alexis Kemp, 18. Firefighters and paramedics also had to use mechanical means to free the car’s other four occupants, a 20-year-old man, a 17-year-old boy, a 17-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy, from the wreckage. All four injured survivors were rushed to Advocate Christ Medical Center in suburban Oak Lawn, IL, all of whom were admitted for treatment, two in serious-to-critical condition, one in serious-to-fair and one in good condition.
The train shoved the disabled vehicle 70 feet down the tracks and into a trackside signal box.
The crossing, where Federal Railroad Administration-housed records say three previous accidents resulted in one death and one non-fatal injury, is fully signalized with lights, bells and gates, but the car was trapped by traffic and road conditions long before the train activated the automatic signaling devices, making their presence non-factors in the tragic accident.