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Eyewitness: Fatality Near Des Plaines Metra Depot Was An Accident

Additional crossing gates would prevent commuters from wandering onto the railroad tracks on Pearson Street, said a Des Plaines resident who witnessed a fatal train and pedestrian crash on Tuesday.

Additional safety precautions are necessary at a Des Plaines railroad crossing, a Des Plaines resident said after seeing a commuter hit by a train on Tuesday morning. Tim Lally, of Des Plaines, had just arrived for a train he usually takes to Chicago a short time before 7:30 a.m. when what Lally described as an accident occurred.

Lally, a software trainer, and his neighbor stood on the sidewalk on the southwest side of the railroad tracks at Pearson and Ellinwood streets, behind activated crossing gates, as an express train to Chicago not scheduled to stop in Des Plaines approached the depot.

A man standing on the center platform had been speaking with an elderly woman before turning away from her and walking southeast onto Pearson Street, between the tracks, Lally said. As the Metra train neared the depot, it blasted its horn, and the man turned to his left a moment before the train whizzed by.

The man was struck by the corner of the leading passenger car, Lally said, was knocked ahead 30 to 60 feet before being run over.

“When the train hit you actually heard the smash, the impact,” Lally said. “Seeing somebody hit like that, it was extremely violent.”

The man was standing in the path of the train, Lally said, and was unaware he was in danger. Lally said he saw the mistake the man made.

“The mistake is there’s nothing to stop you from going directly onto the track,” Lally said. “Everywhere else the train track is lower, at a lower level, so you really, you can’t make the mistake of wandering onto the track, except for right there at that street. There’s nothing to prevent you from just wandering onto the track. I’m convinced it was an accident.”

Lally said he saw close calls from people walking around activated crossing gates, and standing in the same place the man was on Tuesday, every day.

“I feel really sorry for the engineer; there was nothing that guy could do,” Lally said.

Lally had never seen a train moving that fast come to such a sudden stop, he said. Still, half the train passed over the man before completely stopping, he said.

“The lady who he just got done talking to, the minute it happened, this poor woman just fell to her knees,” Lally said. “She was really stricken hard by seeing that, because she was facing him.”

Another set of crossing gates should be added, to reach from the platform into the street between the tracks, Lally said, to prevent commuters from walking onto the tracks on Pearson Street.

“This way you couldn’t just walk in front of a train,” Lally said.

Lally and his neighbor approached Des Plaines police twice to give statements about what they saw, he said, and both times the officers said OK, but wandered off without taking their information.

“They must know more if they don’t want to interview us,” Lally said.

He eventually made his way to work by taking a bus, Lally said, but he was shaken by the experience and his employer gave him the rest of the day off.

“It was something like you just try to get out of your head, and it just doesn’t happen,” Lally said.

 

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