(Gilman, Illinois – April 2, 2017)
Two Kankakee, IL men lost their lives Sunday morning at about 10:15 A.M., CDT, when their truck was struck by an Amtrak Train. The motorists were driving a Menard’s box delivery truck t west across heavily-used Canadian National Railway tracks at the dangerous and unguarded grade crossing of 2000 North Road just north of Gilman, IL, when they were struck by a southbound Amtrak passenger train. Reports indicate the train was traveling at 70 mph.
Iroquois County Coroner Bill Cheatum pronounced both Tony Campbell, 54, and Alexander Odzana, 47, dead at the scene. The victims had been ejected from the truck’s cab upon impact with the train. The Amtrak train is one of a daily average of 36 CN freights and Amtrak trains that operate overt the crossing at speeds of 79 mph. Witnesses speculated that “It looks like they were lost and trying to figure out where they needed to go.”
The tragedy was not the first collision at that particular crossing, situated in an extremely dangerous rail corridor. Two adjacent crossings have experienced earlier fatalities, the most recent occurring August 31, 2016 at the non-gated CNR crossing of CR 1600 North. That collision occured when 72-year-old Gilman resident John Nath was struck and killed by another Amtrak train just a couple of miles south of his home. Meanwhile, a May 26, 2002 tragedy at 1300 North and CN rails saw the suffering of another pair of fatalities The 2000 North tragedy was preceded by a single injury accident on August 8, 2008, and a non-injury collision on June 22, 2002.
John Dykstra of the Kankakee Daily Journal noted that “The tracks did not have flashing lights or crossing gates, but were marked with train crossing signs.” It is virtually certain that if this crossing was equipped with signals, such as lights and gates, this collision would not have happened. Amtrak, Canadian National and Operation Lifesaver know that lights and gates are the most effective type of protection at railroad crossings. Studies that have been conducted over fifty years ago confirm that lights and gates offer the ability to drastically reduce the number of vehicle/train accidents by as much as 96%.
Agreeing with her Daily Journal counterpart, Wendy Davis of The Iroquois County Times-Republic reported that “There’s no warning gates at the crossing, just a railroad crossing and a yield sign.”
Corner Cheatum said that an autopsy is scheduled, but nothing at the scene indicates alcohol or drug usage at the scene.