Three people are dead in the Beverly neighborhood on Chicago’s Far South Side following a Rock Island Metra crash with a pickup truck.
Pickup Truck Burst into Flames
The fatal Rock Island Metra crash took place at approximately 5:30 p.m. on June 27, 2021. At that time, Inbound Rock Island Metra train #122 was traveling at an estimated 79 miles per hour through the crossing at West 107th Street when it collided with a Chevy Avalanche, causing the pickup truck to burst into flames. The train dragged the truck for several blocks before coming to a stop at West 103rd Street and South Vincennes Avenue.
Emergency responders later recovered the three occupants of the pickup truck, all of whom had been killed in the Rock Island Metra crash. They included 38-year-old Joneisha Ransberry, 5-year-old Essence Ransberry, and an adult male whose identity the authorities have not yet released. Fire officials said that they believe the three occupants were a family.
There were 41 passengers on the train at the time of the collision, in addition to Metra personnel. The train’s engineer suffered a minor injury to the leg, while a conductor sustained a back injury. Three passengers also reported minor injuries; two of them were transported to an area hospital for treatment.
Rock Island Metra Crash Under Investigation
Investigators are working to uncover the cause of the fatal Rock Island Metra crash. Nevertheless, the preliminary evidence suggests that the pickup truck may have been at fault.
Metra officials said that several witnesses told police that the truck went around multiple vehicles and the gates in an attempt to beat the train. Others suggested that the train operator made efforts to prevent the collision.
“The motorman tried to stop,” said Metra passenger Greg Smalls. “He tried his best. He was blowing his horn, blowing his horn, blowing his horn. Unfortunately [he] didn’t have enough time.”
Crews were on the scene the morning after the Rock Island Metra crash to check the gates, lights, and bells at the railroad crossing. Investigators also reviewed on-train video footage. Metra believes that all the equipment was operational and that the gates were down before the collision.
Second Chicago-Area Train Accident That Weekend
The Rock Island Metra crash marked the second fatal train accident in the Chicago area that weekend.
At around 1:00 a.m. on June 26, a 2005 Honda Odyssey minivan was hit by a freight train near the Euclid Avenue crossing in East Chicago, IN. Three of the minivan’s occupants were killed, including 36-year-old Pedro Trinidad, 38-year-old Flor Carillo, and 5-year-old Evelyn Trinidad, all of East Chicago. Additionally, three other children were injured.
As in the case of the Rock Island Metra crash, it appears that the driver in the East Chicago collision had also attempted to go around the lowered crossing gates in order to beat the train.
The similarity of these incidents has led to a new call for drivers to be more cautious at railroad crossings. Experts note that it takes only seconds from the time the gates go down before a train at maximum speed can pass through a crossing.
“We are talking seconds to save your life and save the lives in your vehicle,” said Metra Engineer David Martinez. “The odds are, you are not going to beat it and if you do, you’re lucky.”
In 2017, a law went into effect in Illinois that doubled the fines for drivers caught going around the gates at railroad crossings. The current fine is $500.00 for a first offense and $1,000.00 for a second one.
The Complex Liability of Train-Vehicle Collisions
Since 2013, there have been more than 2,000 train-vehicle collisions in the United States each year, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. Around half of these incidents result in serious injuries, with over 230 people killed annually.
While the driver of the vehicle struck by a train is likely at fault in the majority of these cases, liability in train-vehicle collisions can sometimes be more complex. In addition to the driver, other parties whose negligence could have significantly contributed to a train-vehicle collision may include:
- Operators and Engineers – Train operators have a duty to maintain a safe speed for conditions, communicate with dispatchers, crews, and local stations, and deploy lights and signals when traveling at night.
- Railroad Companies – Railroad companies have a responsibility to instruct operators, engineers, and conductors properly, inspect trains regularly to identify defects, and provide sufficient staffing to prevent employee fatigue.
- Track Owners – Private companies own train lines in the United States, and they have a duty to ensure that the tracks are safe for use, including by providing safety features at railroad crossings and performing maintenance and landscaping alongside the lines.
- Train Manufacturers – Manufacturers must design and construct passenger and freight trains so that they are reasonably safe for use; any component or mechanical failures could increase the severity of a train accident.
- Maintenance Services – Third-party contractors hired by railroad companies to perform maintenance on trains, signals, and warning systems could be held liable if inadequately maintained equipment malfunctions.
- Local Governments – Municipalities might be responsible for creating conditions that contribute to a train-vehicle crash, such as by failing to install sufficient signage and lighting or functional roadbeds at railroad crossings.
Given the potential complexity involved, innocent victims of these types of incidents, including the passengers on both vehicles and trains, need to identify all of the parties who may be responsible. Failure to do so within the time allotted by law could forever bar them from obtaining full compensation for their losses.
Fighting for Train-Vehicle Collision Victims
As you can imagine, personal injury claims in these matters can be challenging. For this reason, train-vehicle collision victims should consider retaining seasoned legal counsel to increase their chances of obtaining positive results, the kind of counsel they would receive from the dedicated attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers LLC.
With more than $2 billion recovered in verdicts and settlements, GWC is one of the premier Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation law firms in Illinois. No other plaintiff firm in the state is more respected – or more feared – by its adversaries, both inside and outside of the courtroom. Our Chicago car accident lawyers have the experience, the determination, the resources, and the reputation of success necessary to get you and your family the justice you deserve.