2012 fatality stats*:
Updated March 16, 2012: I’ve recategorized this as a pedestrian death, and not a transit death. Also changed the deceased’s home location and corrected the Street View.
Gardenia Boyer, 23, from the Brainerd neighborhood, was struck and killed by an empty Metra train at 95th Street and Vincennes Avenue on the Rock Island branch going south towards Blue Island, Illinois. It happened on Wednesday morning, around 7 AM. She was walking east on 95th Street. There are two tracks here. Walking on 95th Street never seems like a good idea: the first fatality tracker post was about two people killed while crossing 95th Street. She had two daughters.
Anne Alt describes the situation prior to the collision:
Since the victim was from Hammond, she may not have been familiar with the mix of operation patterns at this location, if she was even trying to catch a train there. It’s possible that she could have been trying to catch a bus beyond the tracks from where she started.
The accident was on the main line, where train traffic patterns are a little confusing unless you know them – freight in off-peak hours (slow or fast), Metra express runs (either empties being shuttled or through trains to Blue Island and Joliet), and Metra runs that stop at the limited service stations at 95th/Vincennes and 103rd/Vincennes. The main line trains only run weekday rush hours and most of them are express. All other trains here are freight.
The last part is important because sometimes people cross one track without knowing the status of the other tracks, but a news report indicates she was struck on the near track.
The news report with the best information was from ABC7. It may have the best information, but it sorely offends the victim and the situation. In the first paragraph, the article sets the tone I see so commonly in news media articles about crashes:
Wednesday morning’s commute was disrupted for some Metra riders when a train struck and killed a woman on Chicago’s Far South Side.
The report also notes that witnesses say she may have been wearing ear phones and goes on to mention that “injuries to headphone-wearing pedestrians have more than tripled in the past six years”.
Anne adds that there are no pedestrian crossing gates here (lacking on much of the south side, she believes), but offers an idea for retrofitting pedestrian crossing gates on the main arms that stop drivers:
Add one or two flashing lights at the butt end of the main gate arm. Since the butt end intrudes slightly on the sidewalk space when the gate is down, and it’s at a fairly low line-of-sight level, this might be a cost effective alternative to adding sidewalk gates at the MANY crossings without them. The gates are already wired for lights, so the cables can just be extended to the other side and power a light there. But this would also be a good opportunity to evaluate if the slowly flashing red lights are the best choice to grab one’s attention (driver or pedestrian).
Updated November 23, 2012: Lawsuit filed
A lawsuit was filed Wednesday, November 21, 2012, in Cook County circuit court. The Chicago Sun-Times reports:
[The suit] says the train was traveling too fast and didn’t sound its’ [sic] horn as it passed through the Beverly neighborhood on March 7.
The suit also alleges there were not adequate warning signs that a train was approaching when Boyer, of the 9500 block of South Mays Street, walked across the tracks. However, the court filing does not indicate specific warning systems — bells, flashing lights or pedestrian gates — failed to activate.
While Boyer’s death was ruled an accident at the time, the suit alleges the woman “lawfully upon the sidewalk and crossing the railroad tracks.”
The suit is seeking an unexpectedly low amount of $50,000 in compensation. The report doesn’t say if this is a “wrongful death” claim so I’m not positive if that means the lawsuit is trying to hold Metra accountable for Gardenia’s death.
* The information is only accurate as of this post’s publishing time, and is only accurate to the best of my knowledge. See all fatality tracker posts. Photo by Jamaal Thomas.