Embattled Metra CEO Phil Pagano committed suicide Friday morning, just hours before the agency's board was to meet to discuss his future.
Pagano stood on the tracks in unincorporated Crystal Lake for about five to 10 seconds before the train hit him at around 8 a.m., the train's conductor said, adding that he made eye contact with Pagano before the impact. There were 24 passengers aboard the train.
"The engineer made a statement to us that he simply saw a person standing in between the rails of the track, looking at the train," said McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren.
Nygren said Pagano left a note indicating his intentions, and reports said investigators found his wallet and a copy of Metra's guidlines on how to handle a stoppage due to a suicide.
Pagano was home alone prior to driving to the tracks. He drove himself to the location just west of Terra Cotta Road on Hillside Road, parked his car, then walked onto the tracks. His wife was out of the state but has been notified.
The Metra board abruptly canceled a meeting sceduled to discuss Pagano's future after he was implicated in a potential bonus scandal, and released a statement shortly afteward.
"It is with great sadness that we report the passing this am of Philip A. Pagano," the statement read. "Philip Pagano served this agency with distinction for many years. Today we shall remember the good work he achieved with our Board of Directors and the men and women of Metra.He was dedicated to our passengers and he always considered the men and women of Metra his family and there is a tremendous sense of loss within the agency."
"This is a sad day for Metra," said Jack Partelow, a Metra board member, when asked about reports.
Pagano was placed on administrative leave last week after it was discovered he took an unauthorized $56,000 bonus. The Cook County States Attorney's office said it had launched a criminal probe as well.
Pagano, who has run the agency for 20 years, is paid $269,625 to run the commuter rail service. But sources say he gave himself an extra $56,000 last year. Metra employees don't get bonuses, spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet said.
The Metra board hired a lawyer to investigate the alleged misappropriation. Senator Dick Durbin called for a federal investigation into the bonus.