Fatal accident snarls Metra service



A 91-year-old man died Tuesday morning after a freight train smashed into his car on the tracks in Westmont, possibly after he drove around crossing gates.

The accident occurred at about 10 a.m. at Cass Avenue and the BNSF Railway tracks, near the village's Metra station.

Authorities are still investigating the circumstances surrounding the tragedy, but witnesses told officials it appeared Louis Lome of Westmont was circumventing the lowered railway crossing gates when his car was hit by the freight.

Westmont Fire Department Capt. Craig Skala said the car was dragged by the train for a short distance and the impact destroyed it.

The accident snarled traffic in downtown Westmont and delayed several Metra trains on the BNSF Metra line between Aurora and Chicago by up to one hour and 10 minutes.

The train, an empty BNSF train that had been carrying coal, was traveling west at between 35 mph and 40 mph, railway director of public relations Steve Forsberg said.

The gates and warning signals had been tested and were found to be working, Forsberg said, adding "there were 41 seconds of warning time."

Illinois is fourth among the top 15 states for highway-rail grade crossing collisions with 151 in 2007, according to Operation Lifesaver, a train safety organization.

Forsberg said incidents were declining but about 50 percent of crashes occur when gates are lowered and warnings are sounding.

In general, "we've become too impatient as a culture. It's not worth a human life to try and beat the train," Forsberg said.


                                                                                                                                      Daily Herald