Aurora family mourns wife, mom killed in train accident



            Piedad Kinshasa and her family couldn't wait for their first vacation in four years.

They were going to Guatemala for the holidays to visit her relatives.

But after a weekend accident, her family will travel to Central America this week for a much different reason -- to lay her to rest.

The Aurora mom and her children -- Juan, 11, and Andrea, 2 -- were driving home Saturday night when their car was struck by a freight train on the city's far east side.

Kinshasa, 42, was pronounced dead hours later at the hospital. Her children were uninjured.

Results from an autopsy conducted today are expected to be announced Tuesday.

Now Kinshasa's husband, Omar De Leon, 46, is left trying to heal, with only memories and stories of Piedad to comfort him.

"She was my life," he said tearfully. "She was everything to me."

The couple married six years ago after meeting at a gym. Juan was her son from a previous marriage.

Kinshasa, who worked as a fitness instructor, was warm and outgoing, De Leon said. She especially loved helping clients get in shape.

"I have never seen in my life a woman with that kind of motivation and determination," he said.

Visitors continued to stream into their home today on Indian Trail Road near downtown Aurora.

Juan, wrapped in a blanket, lay on the couch, watching "King Kong."

Andrea, wearing a purple dress and leggings, ran around the house, giggling.

De Leon calls the toddler his angel. That she was able to escape the accident without even a bruise is one of God's great blessings, he said.

"Because we're Christians, I know Jesus had a reason for this," he said.

Kinshasa and the kids were returning from Target with new clothes for the trip around 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

Heading west on Liberty Street, she found herself on the railroad tracks as the gate began to lower.

She may have tried to shift her 1995 Dodge Avenger into reverse, police said. But authorities believe she panicked. Instead of reverse, they think she put the vehicle in neutral.

The train hit the car on the rear driver's side.

It was going below the 45 mph speed limit, a train engineer said, and stopped about 660 feet north of Liberty.

None of the three men inside the train were injured. Neither were the children.

Juan, sitting next to his mother, had jumped out before the crash. His mom had told him to run, he said.

His sister, secured in a safety seat in the back, also was unharmed.

But police found Kinshasa's body outside the car, about two feet from the tracks. Authorities don't know if she was inside or outside the vehicle when it was hit. Maybe she got out and was trying to save the baby, De Leon said.

Juan called his dad minutes later.

De Leon arrived on the scene and saw ambulances and his kids, safe. He thought his wife might be injured, but not too seriously.

Just after 11 p.m., she was pronounced dead at Aurora's Rush-Copley Medical Center.

In a tearful talk on the way home, De Leon told Juan his mom had gone to a better place.

"She left us because she's going to be an angel," he said. "We're going to help each other now. We've got to stick together."

De Leon has turned to his faith to heal. The family spent the first full day without her at their church, San Pablo Lutheran, because being at home was too hard.

"It felt empty," he said.

God will continue to watch over them, he said, just as He did even during the accident.

Andrea, he said, is proof of that.

"It's a miracle," he said. "Most definitely it is."