An Oak Park resident and veteran bicyclist died Aug. 23 after being struck by a commuter train at Riverside’s downtown railroad crossing. According to Riverside police, the victim, Patricia G. Quane, 52, of the 1100 block of South Home Avenue, was killed just before 8 a.m. by an eastbound Metra express train after apparently she rode around the crossing gates on her way over the tracks.

Riverside Assistant Police Chief Thomas Weitzel said there were some 30 witnesses to the collision and all of them confirmed that the crossing barriers were down, warning lights were flashing and bells were sounding when Quane ventured across the three sets of train tracks on the east side of Riverside Road riding from south to north.

Quane, an instructor in Oak Park Elementary District 97 schools since 1989, was a speech and language teacher at Holmes School, 508 N. Kenilworth Ave., said Gail Krantz, district spokeswoman.

“This is just devastating. She was a very safe biker. She is the last person you’d expect to be in an accident,” said Brian Crawford, spokesperson for the Oak Park Cycle Club, a local organization to which Quane belonged.

She is survived by three daughters, Abigail, 17; Amelia, 21; and Alegra, 24.

Police have speculated that Quane never saw Metra express train No. 1234, which was hurtling through the village on the northernmost set of train tracks. A second eastbound Metra train was stopped on the center set of tracks, loading passengers at the Riverside train depot west of the intersection.

In addition, Burlington Northern-Santa Fe workers were attending to several freight cars west of the intersection on the southernmost set of train tracks. Just before 6:30 a.m. BNSF officials reported to Riverside police that a freight train wheel had jumped the track and the train was blocking the Riverside/Longcommon grade crossing.

The freight train was later uncoupled and a portion was hauled east to a freight yard, clearing the grade crossing. But several cars remained on the tracks to the west of the intersection.

As Quane crossed the tracks, Weitzel said that the conductors of both the stopped Metra train and the express train blew their horns as an alarm.

“They said there was no response [from Quane],” Weitzel said. He added that there was nothing to indicate that Quane was wearing headphones at the time.

Police were initially unable to identify Quane, who was carrying no ID cards at the time of the collision. They did recover a cellphone, but were unable to power it up because it was so heavily damaged.

Later, Detective Sgt. John Krull took the phone to a retail outlet in Berwyn, where a computer chip was removed and he was able to retrieve a list of phone numbers, which led them to family members. Police made a positive identification by 2 p.m., Krull said.

Metra spokesman Tom Miller said that all train service was interrupted from roughly 8:15 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. while police investigated the scene.

The Aug. 23 collision is the fourth reported in the immediate vicinity during 2005 and the third since May. Three of the incidents, all considered accidental, resulted in the death of the victim.

In May, a Brookfield woman standing inside the crossing gates at the Prairie Avenue stop in Brookfield was struck by a westbound Metra train. In June, a Riverside woman running for a Metra commuter train at the Harlem Avenue station in Berwyn was struck and killed by a westbound Indiana Harbor Belt freight locomotive. Riverside and Brookfield reported no grade crossing fatalities in 2004.

Despite the jump in deaths at local grade crossings in 2005, Miller said that the total number of grade crossing collisions system-wide is down this year. To date this year, Metra has reported 15 grade crossing incidents. At this time in 2004, a total of 19 had been reported.

“We’re not seeing more, but even one is too many,” said Miller, who cautioned that all were preventable had the victims obeyed the grade crossing warning devices.

Join the discussion on social media!