DG Resident's Account of Wednesday's Train Fatality

Resident submits letter recalling terrible event.

resident Ernest Anderson was a witness at the tragic pedestrian accident last night at the and emailed me today to share his account. We spoke today, and with his permission, his letter is published below.

The Village of Downers Grove website has a webpage with railroad safety tips courtesy of Operation Lifesaver. You can find that webpage here.


Mr. Anderson's letter reads:

Last night, my sons and I witnessed something very tragic that a family may have yet to know.  At about 7:00 PM, as we drove up to the railroad gates at Forest Ave, we heard the sounds of the BNSF freight train blaring its horn and then the emergency brakes screeching the train to a halt. My gut told me the train hit someone and that’s what I told my kids. As we drove up Warren Ave to turn around in the parking lot that’s across from Starbucks and next to the tracks, my headlights caught the image of a green jacket with a furry collar. I stopped and looked and didn’t see anything else. As I continued and turned, my oldest son, says “oh my god, there’s something or someone under the wheel of the train.  I saw the red top the person was wearing.  The body lay next to the train wheel. I picked up my phone to call DGPD to let them know we found the body.  

We both got out of the car as the headlights shined on the train car, wheels, and the body. There was no one there. I just kept thinking, “Where are the police? Where’s the ambulance?” And then it dawned on me. No one knows this person is here. We’re the only ones that know.  My oldest son went to go to the officer that drove up to the scene at Main St. and the RR crossing. I whistled to the officer and as he pointed his flashlight at me, I pointed back to him in the direction of where the body lay. At the time we thought this was a kid by the clothing and size of the body.

The officer acknowledged me and he walked up to the tracks and where the body lay. I told my kids, it’s time to go because I didn’t want them to see any more of this.

After we drove away and West on Warren Ave, no one said anything for about 5 minutes, and then my kids were saying how sad this is and why did they walk around the locomotive that was sitting at the station? I only told them, “This is why I constantly tell you guys, you never walk around RR crossings with flashing lights and gates down. You never know what’s coming”.

The rest of the evening and into this morning, I just kept praying and thinking, a life has been lost and I pray to god that it is never my kids, my wife, family, friends, or anyone else.  As of this morning, I still don’t know who the person is. I want to find out and attend the funeral.


Ernest Anderson

Genene Murphy November 10, 2011 at 09:41 PM
I've been thinking today about her too, and all those affected. Friends. Family. The conductor. First responders at the scene. Those who watched. Those who realized what was happening and felt powerless to do or say anything. Those for whom this situation revives memories of other times, people and places. Thanks for your words here, as I'm sure there are many reading them who feel the same.
Robert Bykowski November 10, 2011 at 09:54 PM
I walked over there today and everything was back to normal, as you would expect, but it made me think there should be some sort of permanent reminder. Actually, it made me think of those road side crosses you see that mark where tragic accidents occur or the "ghost bikes" you see in the city that designate where there's been a bicycling fatality. Those always catch my eye and make me think about the circumstances of the accident.
Scott C. November 10, 2011 at 10:09 PM
It is so tragic, so sad, and happens too often for absolutely no good reason. The trains are ALWAYS where they are supposed to be. They don't take wrong turns and they don't come out of nowhere. The crossing gates and warning lights are there for a reason. When they are flashing/down, its because a train is present and/or approaching...and you shouldn't be. It is really that simple. No appointment, obligation or opportunity is worth the price that woman paid.
Jeffrey Crane November 10, 2011 at 10:15 PM
Talked to our train conductor and he indicated it was a homeless woman who committed suicide.
Tony Cesare November 10, 2011 at 10:22 PM
Unlike what I've witnessed in the past, this does not have the feel of an intentional act, but rather an impatient one-an accident. It's incredibly sad.
George Swimmer November 10, 2011 at 11:16 PM
Does anyone know if the stopped Metra train was protecting the whole Main Street pedestrian and street crossing by blocking it with its locomotive? The Daily Herald indicated that the pedestrian was walking on the east side of the street and implied the lady went around the gates at that location. If that was the case, the train did not block the crossing and in fact was not where it should have been. It seems like the lady's view was blocked by the stopped train while trying to cross the tracks from north to south. Sadly, people often cross the tracks when gates are down if they feel the reason why the gates are down is because of the stopped or exiting train. The Union Pacific has a very enhanced second train warning system at many station crossings. In consists of both visual and voice warnings that a second train is in the area. Downers Grove and the BNSF can make our crossing much safer.
George Swimmer November 10, 2011 at 11:23 PM
Mr. Anderson, thank you for sharing your thoughts and observations. It may prevent someone else from making a tragic error in judgement.
Bob LeMay November 11, 2011 at 03:16 PM
As Jeffrey Crane indicated, a commenter on the story on the Tribune website also indicated that it appeared to be an intentional act, as the commenter was next to the woman before she went around the gate. George S, no matter what the railroads do, they cannot prevent stupidity. Even if they block the Main Street crossing, then the Forrest or Washington crossing will be open. The gates and signals are there for a reason, but we as a society have become too impatient--witness the red light runners, the sliding-through-the-stop-sign, the right turn on red where prohibited, the speeding on EVERY street. Everyone thinks that their time is too valuable to have to slow down or wait an extra 30 seconds. Some of those people die every day.
Kathygo November 11, 2011 at 08:27 PM
I can't find that article in the trib with the eyewitness account. Can anyone fill me in on this? I was around at that time but didn't see what happened. Thanks
Bob LeMay November 11, 2011 at 08:36 PM
Kathy, Here's the link: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-pedestrian-incident-delays-westbound-metra-trains-20111109,0,6015824.story
Kathygo November 11, 2011 at 09:44 PM
Thanks Bob, That comment was the first story I heard on the street by the metra station after the accident. It is very sad. It seems that is was sadly her choice. Though if you are near a train...the vacuum can suck you in??? I guess it is best to give yourself some room while waiting for the trains.
Cy November 13, 2011 at 01:53 AM
I have, in the past week, seen one pedestrian ignore the gates (train came 30 seconds after she cleared the tracks) and 2 cars blow through as the gates were coming down. What is wrong with people?!
Gayle November 14, 2011 at 05:29 PM
I learned late last night that this woman was the mother of a very good friend of my boyfriend. There has not yet been a funeral. I don't know much more, but they are telling our friend that it appeared to have been intentional.


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