CHICAGO (CBS) — For months, Metra has been dealing with complaints about the warning gates at a railroad crossing in Mokena; every time the agency reported there were no injuries caused by malfunctioning lights and gates.
However, one family reached out only to CBS 2’s Jeremy Ross, claiming that’s far from the case.
The commute along 191st Street in Mokena is painful to Kaled Bakr, whose 19-year-old daughter, Samira, died a week after her high school graduation in 2012, when her car was hit while going through the crossing.
“When I go to work, I got to go through that train track,” Bakr said. “Every day, it’s like a nightmare.”
Bakr said he often stops just before the crossing, even blocking traffic, just to make sure a train isn’t coming.
Surveillance video captured the crash that killed Samira. Bakr family attorney Kevin Golden said the warning lights started flashing while Samira was crossing the tracks, and “the next thing she knew, the gate came down and the gate was behind her.”
“You have a 19-year-old girl who’s not an experienced driver,” Golden said. “The lights go on, so what do you naturally do? You stop.”
Golden said the train was going 69 miles per hour when it hit Samira’s vehicle.
“She didn’t know what track that train was on,” he added. “She did what she felt best was try to go across the track.”
Bakr said, in the six years since his daughter’s death, that crossing has remained a persistent problem.
On March 8, video captured a train slowly moving through the same crossing as the safety gate lowers.
Weeks ago, cell phone video showed the gates down with no train in sight.
Metra said many concerns are actually people spotting the tail end of safety checks; some began with a motorist reporting something that looked wrong. When Metra checks into the complaints, all trains must stop short of the crossing, and the conductor might need to get off the train to stop traffic, and signal the engineer to proceed slowly once the issue is checked out.
Other times, safety mechanisms trigger safety gates to go down with no train approaching, if one is stopped at a nearby station.
Those such incidents are not considered malfunctions.
However, last November, there was a malfunction as dashboard camera caught a train nearly hitting a police cruiser and two other cars, after the crossing gates failed to go down as a train went through the crossing.
Metra said, since then, there have been numerous reports of additional malfunctions. The agency said, in almost every case, those reports were unfounded. Metra insisted the crossing is working and safe.
“Until the next person dies, and then maybe they’ll wake up,” Bakr said. “I just don’t need another family, or my family, to get killed on that train track, and go through what I went through.”
Metra issued a statement reading, in part, “We sympathize with the family, and are sorry for their loss.”
“There is no connection between the incident back in 2012, and the failure this past November. We have taken a variety of steps to make sure that doesn’t happen again. In addition, all the crossings in Mokena have been inspected multiple times in recent weeks, and no issues were found.”