Clarendon Hills Metra accident victim ID'd as Downers Grove woman, 72;  BNSF stop remains closed

Clarendon Hills Metra accident victim ID’d as Downers Grove woman, 72; BNSF stop remains closed

CLARENDON HILLS, Ill. (WLS) — The family of 72-year-old a Downers Grove woman called the Metra crash in Clarendon Hills that killed her Wednesday, “preventable.”

Christina Lopez was killed and four other people were injured in a crash with a box truck during the Wednesday morning rush hour.

Lopez’s son in law, Jeff Klonowski, spoke at a news conference Thursday and said Lopez was a “tremendous” woman. She was retired with three daughters and was traveling to visit family when she killed.

“We want to get the answers but also more importantly, we want to do our part to help so that no family has to do and go through this tragedy again,” Klonowski said. It didn’t have to happen.”

Family of Metra crash victim speaks out

The National Transportation Safety Board is now heading up the investigation after Lopez was killed and two other passengers and two BNSF employees were injured in the crash at the Prospect Avenue crossing. All injuries were described as minor.

“All of us on Metra and BNSF Railway are devastated by this death and we will be working hand-in-hand with the NTSB to find out what happened,” Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said.

Truck catches fire after being hit by Metra train

The NTSB is expected to give an update on the crash at 3 pm Thursday, as the badly damaged and burned out truck remains on the scene.

It appeared Lopez was ejected from the inside of the train as it hit the truck.

The incident made for a chaotic and scary morning for many commuters and people living in the downtown area.

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John Johnson heard the Metra train from his patio Wednesday morning.

“I heard him lay on the horn, not like a normal grade crossing, he was just laying on it, and then I heard the bang of the air being released from the emergency brake application,” Johnson said. “We’re given a lifetime — how many years is it going to be? We don’t know. I just feel bad for the victim and her family.”

The crash appeared to have happened when a truck got stuck in the tracks as a Metra train approached Clarendon Hills.

Metra officials give update on fatal crash

Video taken by witnesses on scene showed the initial chaos of the train blasting through the box truck before it burst into flames. Witness Tom Zurgot said he was in a car right behind the truck.

“All of a sudden I just saw the three guys in the truck jump out as fast as they can and then the train just hit it head-on at full speed,” Zurgot said. “It was shocking … you see videos of trains hitting cars all the time, but then you see it live and see a truck lifted in the air and pushed about 100 feet.”

The men in that truck evacuated without getting hurt.

The explosion of the accident unfolded just feet away from commuters waiting at the Metra stop.

“I’m a little concerned for my kids and my family and friends that cross here all the time,” Odd Joergenrud said. “I think they made it too narrow, and it’s too easily that the traffic stops. And it’s very easy to blame all the drivers that they are too close to each other, but when the crossing is moving as slowly as it is now, that creates situations.”

Chopper7 over deadly Metra crash

Construction has been going on at this stop in Clarendon Hills for about a year now as a new station is built. Commuters think that construction could have stalled the truck on those tracks.

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A Metra spokesperson said this is the second accident to kill a passenger in Metra history. The first fatal accident was in Chicago on Sept. 17, 2005, when two passengers died in a crash on the Rock Island District Line near the 47th Street Bridge.

“The cab car, which was leading the train, would have a front-facing camera on it and that will be downloaded,” Gillis said.

It’s unclear if the truck driver will be cited.

Metra BNSF schedule changes

On Thursday, Metra said the BNSF line will run on a Saturday schedule. There will be no express service and trains will not make any stops at the Clarendon Hills station.

Metra also said riders can use the Union Pacific West Line as an alternative and can call the RTA at (312) 836-7000 for travel assistance.

The commuter rail also suggested using the Westmont or Hinsdale stations instead.

Commuters should continue to expect delays.

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