Four members of a Greenville, Illinois, family were killed at a railroad crossing in Vandalia when their SUV was hit by a freight train. The accident happened on Thursday, October 30, as a mother and her four children were headed to a Halloween parade a block away from the crossing. The youngest child survived his injuries. The father and another son were not in the vehicle at the time of the crash.
The train was bound from Avon, IN, out of East St. Louis, IL. It had two locomotives and 103 cars of mixed freight. The train is reported to have been traveling at approximately 46-49 mph at the point of impact. The railroad’s speed limit there is 59 mph.
Investigators claim that the driver of the SUV drove into the railroad crossing past flashing signals and a crossing gate. Once on the crossing, her vehicle was struck by an eastbound CSX train and pushed off the tracks. The coroner reports that she should have been able to see the train and speculates that she might have been trying to beat the train in order to get to the parade on time. A recording from a video camera on the locomotive reportedly shows that the vehicle appeared to be moving across the tracks at a normal rate of speed when it was struck by the train.
Witnesses tell a different story. They say that the mother’s SUV was trapped at the crossing before the train arrived. “She had been sitting for few minutes off the tracks. The cars moved ahead of her. She pulled up to go over the tracks, and the car in front of her stopped. That’s when the lights started flashing and then boom, the train hit them.”
In the past 20 years, the coroner has been called to three other deaths along that stretch of railroad tracks.