Spinning truck gouged Metra railcar in fatal crash, NTSB preliminary report reveals

Federal investigators released new details Wednesday of how a truck struck by a Metra train pierced a railcar, resulting in a rider's fatal ejection May 11 in Clarendon Hills.

After the train collided with the left front side of the truck, the vehicle spun around and part of it ripped into the front railcar's exterior, then penetrated into passenger seating on the lower level, a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board finds.

“The truck rotated clockwise and struck the right side of the train's lead cab car, below the windows,” officials stated, noting there was no derailment.

“The collision resulted in exterior gouging of the cab car, with intrusion damage to the lower-level seating compartment, as well as train window damage.”

Metra rider Christina Lopez, a grandmother of five from Downers Grove, was died in what family members called a preventable tragedy.

The northbound truck was inexplicably frozen on the tracks as the inbound train approached at 8:16 a.m. at the Prospect Avenue crossing in downtown Clarendon Hills.

A locomotive was at the back of the train pushing it, and a cab car was in front with six passengers and an engineer operating controls.

“The truck was stopped on the tracks (facing north) at the southern portion of the Prospect Avenue intersection,” authorities said. “The grade crossing warning lights and gates activated, and, as the gates lowered, the northbound gate struck the truck. The three truck occupants exited the truck cab before the train arrived.”

The engineer, the conductor and two commuters suffered minor injuries. The truck burst into flames after the impact.

Local residents have speculated that construction before and after the tracks could have been a factor in the crash. Meanwhile, officials have not released results of toxicology tests of the engineer and truck driver or the speed of the train.

The engineer had activated the brakes and was sounding the horn, authorities said.

The NTSB's final report isn't expected until some time in 2023. The agency took the lead in the investigation because of the unusual circumstances of a passenger death, the first time since 2005.

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