A Hawthorn Woods man was killed when the car he was driving collided with a Metra train and burst into flames Wednesday morning in downtown Des Plaines.
The victim, Timothy Jones, 51, had turned from westbound Miner Street onto southbound River Road, ignoring the no left turn sign and flashing lights at the railroad crossing, Des Plaines Police Chief Jim Prandini said.
"All the signals were activated and flashing," Prandini said. "He disobeyed those and wound up in the path of the train."
Prandini said Jones drove around the crossing gates. The 2007 Buick Lucerne struck the westbound Metra train at 8:10 a.m. and immediately caught fire.
Witnesses who saw the accident said the car spun around a few times after hitting the train, but photos from the scene show the charred automobile laying on its roof.
"He was coming up the hill and couldn't stop ... I think it's because it was raining," said Laura Daluga of Chicago, who saw the car from where she was standing on the platform waiting for a train heading to Palatine. "It (the car) hit the very front of the train and the car spun around a couple of times. It took the whole length of the train before it stopped."
She said it was a scary scene to witness, but it wasn't her first time as she had witnessed a train crash years ago on the Union Pacific North line in Glencoe in which a man and his daughter died.
"It must be horrifying to be the conductor," she said.
Passengers on the train barely felt anything but some in the rear train car saw flames from the burning vehicle.
"It was probably on fire for like 10 minutes," said Julie Engel of Chicago, who was on her way to work in Rolling Meadows. "I was sleeping. The conductor came running back and said 'nobody move'."
Metra officials said inbound and outbound trains were delayed by up to two hours due to the crash.
Vehicular traffic also was backed up for a time but resumed at normal pace by 10:30 a.m. after the remains of the mangled car had been cleared from near the tracks.