‘This accident was preventable’: Family of Downers Grove woman killed in Metra crash wants answers

The family of a 72-year-old Metra passenger killed after the train collided with a truck May 11 at a crossing in Clarendon Hills is seeking answers and video of the crash that led to her death.

The family matriarch, Christina Lopez, a grandmother of five, was killed in the crash at the Prospect Avenue railway crossing downtown during the morning commute. Two other passengers, plus the train’s engineer and conductor, suffered minor injuries.

“This accident was preventable,” her son-in-law Jeff Klonowski said.

Lopez’s family and their attorney held a news conference May 12 asking for video footage of the crash.

“We want to get the answers, but also importantly, we want to do our part to help so that no family has to go through this tragedy again,” Klonowski said. “It didn’t have to happen.”

The Metra express train hit a box truck that was on the tracks at the Prospect Avenue crossing. The other vehicle, which officials said was a moving truck, burst into flames, but its three occupants got out safely.

The back end of the truck struck the right side of the train’s cab car, causing extensive damage, National Transportation Safety Board officials said. Lopez was ejected through one of the windows on the left side of the train, NTSB officials said.

Lopez had three daughters and lived most of her life in Chicago. She moved to the suburbs to be closer to her family. Lopez would take Metra from the Main Street stop in Downers Grove to visit her sister in La Grange multiple times a week.

“She was going there to visit her sister that morning when she was caught in the accident,” Klonowski said.

Clarendon Hills resident Mark Harrison wondered May 11 whether construction on both sides of the BNSF tracks that caused a dip in the road might have affected the truck.

Attorney Steven Jambois, who is representing Lopez’s family, said the construction has disrupted the normal flow of traffic through the intersection. He knows of “numerous residents” who have made complaints to the city.

“From everything I’ve heard, that was an accident waiting to happen, that the traffic because of the construction at that intersection was so slowed down, that people were in harm’s way quite frequently,” Jambois said. “And this was something that was bound to happen and was very preventable.”

Lopez was a devoted sister to her siblings, a caring aunt to many nieces and nephews and a fantastic cook who passed on her recipes to her loved ones, her son-in-law said. She celebrated Mother’s Day with most of her extended family last weekend.

“Little did we know the blessing of that time that we had with her,” Klonowski said.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent out a team May 11 to review what happened in Metra’s first passenger fatality since 2005.