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Metra: Accident delays out of our hands

Harvard resident Carl Ray boarded the Metra Union Pacific Northwest line bound for Chicago on Saturday morning, headed for Wrigley Field and a day at the ballpark.

He and his fiancée had spent more than $1,200 for a Chicago Cubs destination package that included a tour of the Friendly Confines, lunch with some of the players, and an evening tilt against the Boston Red Sox.

Not included were significant delays after the No. 702 train struck a pedestrian at 6:55 a.m. before making its first stop in Woodstock, according to authorities.

More than four hours after being forced to remain inside the commuter rail car until the scene was cleared, the couple arrived downtown, missing a large portion of the planned events, Ray said.

“We spent a lot of money for that trip and we were forced to just sit there,” Ray said. “[Officials] wouldn’t let anyone move anywhere and people were getting a little worked up. Obviously you can’t control when something happens, but if they could have even let us off the train it would have helped.”

The couple were two of about 40 passengers to experience long delays Saturday because of the accident – the first of two weekend fatalities.

In the case of what is called unforeseen emergencies, rail commutes can include delays for minutes or hours, depending on the severity of the emergency.

When an incident occurs on the railroad tracks, the first arriving emergency agency is in control, according to Metra spokeswoman Meg Reile. That organization then gives Metra the green light to resume operations or release the passengers when the area is considered safe and the investigation has concluded.

“Every situation is different, but the most fundamental guide is that [Metra] is beholden to the first responding agency,” Reile said. “Some communities have more experience with these incidents and proceed quicker. Others don’t and go by the book, which can take some time.”

When a fatality occurs, delays can be prolonged until the coroner arrives.

“We’ve developed and designed policies to handle these situations professionally and expedite them to the best of our ability,” said Undersheriff Andrew Zinke of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office. “But we aren’t going to let people in harm’s way.”

Metra also contracts with local bus companies when trains are experiencing longer delays. That typically occurs if the train has stopped in an area that allows passengers to be safely removed and transported to another depot or nearby roadway.

“The bus companies aren’t sitting around waiting for an incident to happen,” Reile said. “Sometimes when we dispatch the buses, by the time they get there the problem is resolved. Other times there’s so much going on it takes them a while to get there.”

Buses reportedly were going to be used in Saturday’s fatality, but the never arrived. Reile said that by the time the buses were ready to pick up stranded passengers, the train was cleared to move.

Metra officials said the second fatality happened about 11:18 a.m. Sunday when train No. 714 struck a pedestrian at the Route 14 and Cuba Road crossing after departing Fox River Grove.

Commuters were forced to stay on the train for several hours because of where the train abruptly stopped.

“They were a half-mile from an intersection and it would have required them to walk through unstable gravel, up a ravine and through high grass,” Reile said. “It was considered too hazardous.”

The man who died Saturday was identified as Eric B. Kisly, 23, of Lakemoor, according to the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office.

The man who died Sunday will be identified through DNA tests, which will likely take several days, the Lake County Coroner’s Office said.

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