Chicago (CBS) – A family filed a wrongful death lawsuit on Wednesday on behalf of a woman who died last month after exiting a Metra train that collided with a truck in Clarendon Hills.
The family of 72-year-old Christina Lopez filed suit against Metra, BNSF Railway Company, Dales Moving and moving truck driver Sabariza Cubic.
The lawsuit says that on the morning of Wednesday, May 11, Lopez was a passenger on Metro BNSF Line train number 1242—which was driving the express from Downers Grove Fairview Avenue station and bypassing Clarendon Hills. The lawsuit states that Lopez sat in the back of the main car on the Metra train.
A box truck belonging to Dales Moving was on the tracks at the Prospect Avenue crossing in Clarendon Hills. The lawsuit states that Cubic jumped out of the truck while it was on the tracks.
In the video, a speeding train was caught colliding with a moving truck. The video was taken by Tom Szurgot from a car waiting at the crossing. There are bells and red lights are flashing, but the truck is partially parked under the lower crossing gate.
The first two people are seen getting out of the truck as soon as the horn of the Metra train is sounded. Then, the Metra train drops directly into the truck, also dismantling the crossing gate and taking down the overhead wires. A plume of black smoke emanates from the other side of the train and after the train passes, the remains of the truck are found to have caught fire.
Lopez jumped out of the train window and died. CBS 2 reviewed the video, which shows her body hitting a window – either dismembered or broken as the impact of the crash kicked her out of the train.
The lawsuit – filed by the firms Kralovec, Jambois & Schwartz – alleges negligence on the part of Metra, track owner BNSF Railway Company, Dales Moving and Storage, and Cubic.
In particular, Metra is accused of – among other things – failing to recognize track hazards and slow speeds at the Prospect Avenue crossing and of failing to inform train operators of conditions there. The Metra is also accused of failing to apply enough brake power at the crossing and applying the emergency brake after the truck did not heed the warning signs.
The lawsuit also stated that the Prospect Avenue crossing was under construction, and the Village of Clarendon Hills warned of lane closures and traffic delays at the crossing. The lawsuit alleges that Metra should have been aware of uneven pavement and dire conditions, obstructed vehicles and other near-miss incidents at the Prospect Avenue crossing before the fatal accident.
Dales Moving & Cubic alleges that the moving truck was being driven without proper sightings and that the train was not getting the correct path of path.
The suit seeks unspecified damages.
Attorney Steve Jambois, representing Lopez’s family, said in May that several complaints had been filed about that railroad crossing near Clarendon Hills, but nothing had been done.
“Everything I’ve heard was an accident waiting to happen; the construction at that intersection had caused traffic to slow down so much that people were often harmed, and it was something that bound happened, and a lot. was preventable,” he said.
Robert Sumwalt, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, also said the accident could have been prevented.
“Certainly, it’s a sad situation,” Sumwalt, now a CBS News transportation safety analyst and executive director of the Center for Aviation and Aerospace Safety and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, said in May. “But this is something that could have possibly been prevented had some NTSB recommendations been carried out by the Federal Railroad Administration.”
The NTSB made one of those recommendations nearly eight years ago, when Sumwalt was a member of the NTSB board. On December 1, 2013, some passengers on a derailed Metro-North Railroad train in the Bronx died “as a result of exiting through the windows…”.
The NTSB recommended the Federal Railroad Administration, which regulates railroad regulations, “develop a performance standard to ensure that windows are kept intact during an accident.”
But at the time of the Clarendon Hills Metra accident, that request is still listed as open – and the FRA said they were still researching the issue.