This letter is in regards to the recent tragedy that the Oak Park community experienced with the death of Patricia Quane. Although I was not an eyewitness, I was present at the Riverside train station when this tragedy occurred. I hope that sharing my recollection of events will help Ms. Quane’s family and friends process this loss.
In Riverside, the Burlington Northern rail line has three sets of train tracks. Metra typically uses the south and north tracks for boarding passengers and the center track is used for express trains. On the morning of Aug. 23, the south track, which is normally the track used to board commuter trains to Chicago, was occupied by a derailed freight train. The derailed train was situated just west of Longcommon Road, which is the railroad crossing. A repair crew, with a crane mounted on a railcar, was lifting a railcar of this freight train.
When the 7:48 commuter train pulled into the station, it was on the center track. The grade crossing gate went down and the crossing bells and lights were working. The train stopped so that the first car was situated in the Longcommon Road grade crossing (the engine was at the back of the train).
The stopped train did not completely block the crossing?#34;there was an opening where all three sets of tracks could be crossed at the east end of the grade crossing. When the doors of the first car opened, the conductor motioned for all the passengers to board through the doors of this first car. The crowd waiting on the platform, moved towards Longcommon Road, crossed behind the deployed crossing gates, and began boarding the train.
This was unfamiliar boarding for us, in terms of both procedure and location. Approximately 100-150 people began to board the train through one door in the middle of the railroad crossing. As I headed toward the open door, I suddenly heard a train whistle, followed by another longer whistle.
It was then that I became aware that a third train, an express train, was passing eastbound through the station on the north track. This train was completely blocked from my line of vision by the 7:48 train that we were boarding. Shortly after this, I learned that this express train had hit someone. I can only speculate that this unusual set of circumstances was related to Ms. Quane’s death.
I hope that this recollection of events is helpful in understanding this tragedy. I want to extend my deepest sympathy to Ms. Quane’s family, friends, and colleagues.
James A. Hill