2 Dead in Collision on Tracks in Berwyn

By Sara Olkon, Tribune staff reporter. Tribune staff reporter Jeremy Gorner contributed to this report
Published August 17, 2006

Two men in a silver sedan on the tracks at a crossing in Berwyn were killed Wednesday afternoon when a passenger train bound for San Francisco smashed into the car, leaving a scene that witnesses described as macabre.

The men had not been identified as of Wednesday night, and Berwyn police and the Illinois State Police were investigating the cause of the crash.

Amtrak California Zephyr Train No. 5 rammed into the side of the sedan at the crossing at East and Stanley Avenues, dragging it some 1,400 feet west to Oak Park Avenue. Police were called at 2:13 p.m.

None of the 250 train passengers or crew members was injured, said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

The Amtrak crew told police "the vehicle drove directly in their path," Magliari said. He could not immediately say what the train's speed limit is in that area.

Berwyn Division Cmdr. Tom O'Halloran said there were no signs of a signal malfunction at the East Avenue crossing.

Witnesses recalled a sudden burst of heavy smoke and a grisly scene.

Tim McNamara, 44, left George's Tavern overlooking the tracks to help. He said he stood helpless over the wreckage so mangled with bits of fencing and steel posts that it no longer looked much like a car.

"They were dead," he said, with posts spearing the men's bodies. "There was no question."

Joe Clemens, 25, had just finished a moving job and had happened into the same tavern to check the bus schedule and grab a beer. He, too, ran out when he saw the smoke.

"Their seats were reclined all the way back," said Clemens, who noted that he saw little blood.

The westbound train was traveling along Metra's Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks.

The accident halted the trip for 3 hours and 45 minutes. Passengers were not allowed to leave the train.

Their journey resumed at 5:48 p.m. with the same crew.

Eastbound trains were allowed through at about 3:15 p.m., O'Halloran said.



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