Bourbonnais, IL Amtrak And Truck Collision, Mar 1999

Bourbonnais ILL Train Truck Collision 1999-3-15.jpg Bourbonnais ILL Train Truck Collision Site 2.jpg Bourbonnais ILL Train Truck Collision Memorial.jpg Bourbonnais ILL Train Truck Collision Site.jpg



Bourbonnais, Ill. (AP) -- Rescue crews combed through a twisted, charred rail car today, with little hope of finding survivors after Amtrak's City of New Orleans struck a truck and derailed. At least 14 people were killed and four others were missing and feared dead.
"To find survivors in the wreckage would be pretty unlikely," Bourbonnais Fire Chief Mike Harshbarger said.
The train, bound from Chicago to New Orleans, careened off the tracks shortly after 9:30 p.m. Monday when it slammed into a semitrailer loaded with heavy steel bars at a crossing 50 miles south of Chicago.
All of the dead were aboard one sleeper car near the front of the train. As the impact sent engines and cars flying, it was pierced by one of the engines and then set afire by leaking diesel fuel.
Rescue workers were digging by hand through debris in that car this morning, Harshbarger said. The double-deck sleeping car was broken in the middle, and much of it had been damaged by fire.
All the other cars had been searched, he said.
Fourteen people were confirmed dead by a coroner on the scene, said Lt. Randy Irps of the Bourbonnais Fire District. Four people were unaccounted for and feared dead, and more than 100 were taken to hospitals, authorities said.
"I was trying to go to sleep. Then all of the sudden everything just started crashing and catching on fire and people hollering and running. It was awful," said Blanche Jones, a passenger from Memphis, Tenn.
"We was trying to get out. We couldn't get out, couldn't find a way out. That was the most devastating thing of all," Jones said as she limped out of a school that served as a temporary shelter.
"By the grace of God, I just went down a stairway and found a way to get out and let everybody know how to get out," she said.
The truck was leaving a nearby Birmingham Steel Co. facility.
Cy Gura, a safety engineer with the National Transportation Safety Board team at the scene, said today that the driver told authorities he didn't see the train or flashing warning lights until he had already started driving across the tracks.
The man, JOHN R. STOKES, 58, of Manteno, told authorities he was unable to get entirely across in time.
"He is very sad and upset. He felt he did whatever he thought he could do to clear the train track but he didn't do it," Gura said.
STOKES had had his lecense suspended earlier this year after Illinois officials learned that he received three speeding tickets in Indiana in less than a year. But he was allowed to drive on a temporary permit during the suspension because he was a first-time offender, took a safety course and paid a fee.
For the train, the speed limit on that section of track is 79 mph, but the precise speed of the train at the time was unknown.
Gura said a twisted pile of metal wreckage at the crash site contained two locomotives and six train cars. One engine was split it half.
"The windows rattled," said Don O'Dell, who lives a block away from the scene and was watching TV when he heard the crash. "We got up and looked around to see what was going on."
Crew members clambered atop overturned cars searching through an eerie, smoky haze. Firefighters doused flames on one of the engines and another car.
Some of the rescuers peeled off their coats for the victims.
Fire Capt. Ed St. Louis said 196 survivors were at hospitals or had checked in at a school where passengers were cared for by the Red Cross.
In all, Amtrak said, there were 196 regular passengers, 18 crew members on duty and two off-duty Amtrak employees aboard the train, for a total of 216.

Kokomo Tribune Indiana 1999-03-17

Listing Of The Casualties -- 11 Died
KEIICHI MOMURA, 20, Tokushima, Japan.
MARIE MUNSON, 64, Mount Prospect, Illinois.
JUNE LEE BONNIN, 46, Nesbit, Miss.
JESSICA, TICKLE, 11, Nesbit, Miss., her grand daughter.
RAINEY LIPSCOMB, 10, Lake Cormorant, Miss.
LACEY LIPSCOMB, 8, Lake Cormorant, Miss., his sister.
SHEENA DOWE, 22, Jackson, Miss.
HELENA ADKINS, 42, Bremerton, Wash.
WENDY VANT, 42, Bremerton, Wash.
LEONA VANT, 71, Bremerton, Wash.
VERGIL VANT, 76, Bremerton, Wash.