The family of a Mitra passenger who was killed when a train collided with a truck has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, saying the commuter rail agency and BNSF Railroad the train was traveling on should have known that construction at the Clarendon Hills crossing made it dangerous. .
In the lawsuit, one of the girls who ran the property of Cristina Lopez, who was killed in the accident, said construction in progress at the crossing led to traffic backups, and “other cars were stuck or obstructed on the rails.” It said in the suit that Metra and the BNSF “should have taught, informed, trained, communicated and/or instructed” their employees to be vigilant around the crossing.
The lawsuit, which Josephine Klonofsky filed this week in Cook County Court, also mentions the defendants a moving company that, according to the lawsuit, owned the truck that got stuck on the rails, and an employee it says was driving the truck. The employee has not been cited or charged, and the National Transportation Safety Board continues to investigate the incident.
Lopez, 72, was killed on May 11, when a train she was traveling on on Metra’s BNSF Line collided with a truck stuck on the rails at the Prospect Street crossing, near Clarendon Hills train station. In a preliminary report in June, the bureau said two other passengers sustained injuries not believed at the time to be life-threatening, and two crew members were injured. Three people in the truck escaped before the collision and were unharmed, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
Mitra said the train was not running on its usual schedule and was speeding to Union Station at the time of the crash. The engine was in the rear of the train, meaning that the railcar carrying passengers was the first to hit the truck, which was spinning and damaging the side of the railcar, damaging the main level seating area and the train window. Lopez was taken out of the train carriage, and the truck caught fire.
Lopez, who lives in Downers Grove, was on her way to visit one of her sisters in Lagrange when the collision occurred. Her family described her as a loving grandmother of five, mother of three “very, very strong women”, and a sister and loyal friend to many.
Her death was the second crash involving the death of a passenger in Mitra’s history.
In the lawsuit, Klonovsky accused Metra and BNSF of negligence because they failed to educate or inform their employees of the construction and conditions at the Prospect Street crossing and failed to take other steps, including setting speed limits.
The lawsuit also charges the carrier, Del’s Moving and Storage, and the truck driver with negligence.
Metra and BNSF declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing a pending lawsuit.
A man who answered the phone at Del’s Moving also declined to comment or reveal his name, and said the driver declined to comment.
Stephen Gamboa, their attorney, said understanding what caused the accident would give Lopez’s family a closure. He said he expected Lopez’s death to lead to a series of failures on several levels.
“(The family) is really excited to make sure that doesn’t happen again, and to find out what really happened this time,” he said.