Nearly five months after a freight train struck a sport-utility vehicle at a Bloomingdale-area rail crossing, injuring three members of a DuPage County family, railroad officials have filed a report with federal authorities blaming a company dispatcher for the wreck.
Safety signals at the crossing had been partially disabled before the January collision on the Canadian National Illinois Central rail line because melting snow had caused the gates on Army Trail Road to malfunction.
Under federal guidelines, the 89-car freight train involved in the crash should have inched up to the crossing to make sure the equipment was working. Instead, it barreled through at 50 m.p.h.
The ensuing wreck seriously injured a 38-year-old Carol Stream woman and her elderly parents who were in the SUV.
A copy of the railroad’s final report on the incident, obtained by the Tribune, shows that Canadian National Illinois Central has blamed one of its dispatchers for erroneously lifting a “stop and flag” order at the crossing.
Such an order calls for trains to approach a troubled crossing slowly to ensure that safety equipment works properly. If the crossing gate does not activate, crew members are supposed to get off the train and flag down traffic.
“The train dispatcher mistakenly notified the crew of (the train) that the `stop and flag’ order for the highway-rail grade crossing at Army Trail Road had been nullified,” the railroad reported to the Federal Railroad Administration, or FRA.
Robert Haas, the dispatcher working in the railroad’s Homewood communications facility, and the train’s two-man crew have been fired from the railroad. Canadian National Illinois Central spokesman Jack Burke verified that the railroad had filed the document with the FRA, but declined to comment on the material.
Burke said the report has not changed the railroad’s posture in defending itself from a pair of lawsuits filed in the wake of the wreck, both alleging the railroad was negligent. The railroad will make its case in court, he said.
“That is the correct forum where this will be discussed and argued and ruled upon,” Burke said.
The FRA has not issued its own final findings on the crash.
Chicago attorney Timothy Cavanagh, who is representing the injured elderly couple in the suit, which seeks unspecified damages, said he received a copy of the railroad’s report late last month.
The attorney, working with https://www.marketmymarket.com/legal-marketing/, made available last week a videotape of a deposition Haas gave at Cavanagh’s law offices in April. In the interview, Haas testified that he was confused by repair work that had been completed at a nearby crossing.
Haas said he gave out incorrect information to the crew.