Homeless man killed by Metra train

August 16, 2007


A homeless man was struck and killed by a semi-express train at about 6 p.m. Thursday near the Arlington Heights Metra station on Vail Avenue.

As of 9 p.m. police said an unknown man, about 40-50 years old, was pronounced dead at the scene. Police would not release further details pending identification and notification of family.

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Police investigate the scene of an accident involving a pedestrian and a westbound train at the Arlington Heights Metra Station on Thursday night.
(Rene Edde/Staff Photographer)

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Officials instruct waiting train passengers about alternate travel routes at the scene of the accident.
(Rene Edde/Staff Photographer)

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Police investigate the scene of an fatality involving a pedestrian and an westbound train at the Arlington Heights Metra Station on Thursday.
(Rene Edde/Staff Photographer)

John Inglat of Wauconda and Kelly Kapelke of Harvard were passengers.

"I was on that car, the one he's under," Inglat said. "They told us to stay on the train, there was a fatality. After a while they told us we could move."

Passenger Reggie Carter of Lake Zurich said the train stopped quickly.

"You had a sort of puffy feeling under the train," he said. "And the engineer said to the conductors: 'Guys, we have a problem.'"

As of 6:40 p.m., all outbound trains were stopped while inbound trains were moving but slowed down in the area of the incident, Metra spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet said.

Witnesses described the man as homeless who hung around the station and crossed under the guard wire, separating the tracks, apparently unaware a train was speeding past the station.

Friends of the homeless man mingled with passengers as police forensic units marked more than 20 points of evidence including $2 in cash the man was holding in his hand when he was struck.

The man had his back to the Metra train, eyewitnesses said, and he died instantly.

He "was a good guy," Ken Franklin said. "Just down on his luck."

Franklin is a homeless man currently in Arlington Heights.

Another area homeless man, Tom Fatigati, a former Marine staff sergeant, was with the man moments before the accident.

"He was right by me, coming over to me. He turned his back for a moment ... and it's an express train, you know?" he said. "I was in Vietnam. I've seen people killed, but this was a shock to me. I've never seen a friend die like that."

"They asked us to identify him," Franklin said. "You couldn't tell it was him; only by articles of clothing."

Friends of the man was very religious and used to quote from scripture.

He "used to sleep by the clock tower, or on the bench by the sculpture (on the corner of Evergreen and Northwest Highway)," Franklin said. "Or in the parking garage if it was raining."

A small homeless group gathered in a brick alcove just past bicycle racks near the train station as police and paramedics crowded the accident scene.

"It's a small community. If you want to eat you have to network with your homeless friends," Franklin said. He "was one of the good ones."

The Illinois Department of Human Services provides the homeless with Link cards, a food stamps program, which allows for about $150 for food purchases. Sometimes, Franklin said, you go short.

"If (he) had money on his Link card, he would spend it to help everyone else," he said. "And he'd go hungry himself."

The Arlington Heights train station plays a central role in the lives of the village's homeless society.

"It's centrally located. You can walk to a number of PADs sites (homeless shelters) if you need to. If you're looking for a job, you can get on the train to take you there," Franklin said. "When the (shelter) closes at 7 a.m. you can go to the train station to get out of the weather until the library opens."

Franklin said that was why you see so many homeless people downtown by the train station.

He was interrupted by a Metra announcement that trains would be "delayed for one hour due to a pedestrian incident."

"I guess this is what happens when you're homeless," Franklin said. "You die in the street."

Friends said they hope to hold a memorial service at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Cross & Crown Lutheran Church, 1122 W. Rand Road, Arlington Heights.