A truck driver killed when he drove around railroad guards and was struck by a speeding Metra train on Friday morning had extensive history of hazardous moving violations, officials said.
Kazimierz Karasek, 59, from Prospect Heights, was killed when his truck, carrying concrete, struck the No. 636 Union Pacific Northwest Line inbound from Harvard shortly after 8:30 a.m.
He'd previously been cited for driving under the influence, disregarding a traffic control signal and driving the wrong way on a one-way street, records reveal. He received court supervision for his 2008 DUI.
News of Karasek's death came as a shock to his neighbor, Randy Lambert, who first learned about the crash Friday evening. He called Karasek a "responsible neighbor" who owned his own truck and would deliver shipments independently for companies.
"My neighbor is dead," Lambert said with a look of disbelief on his face. "As far as I know he was a good driver."
But officials said Karasek was the cause of the crash that sent at least 26 of the roughly 400 passengers on board the train to local hospitals.
Karasek was driving northwest on Route 14 and attempted to turn left onto Mount Prospect Road, near the Cumberland Metra station, police said. The six-car Metra train, traveling about 50 mph, slammed into the truck, separating the cab from the rest of the vehicle. Two of the train's cars derailed.
Karasek was pronounced dead on the scene.
"[The truck] violated the down gates," said Mt. Prospect Police Commander John Radner, adding that the train alert was activated.
Deborah Finn, traveling to work from Crystal Lake, was sitting in the third car at the time of the collision.
"It was the scariest thing I've ever been through," Finn said. "I could feel the heat [of the fire in the second car].
Most of the passengers were treated at the scene and released. The Chicago Transit Authority and Pace pitched in with shuttle buses to aid commuters to their destinations.
No trains ran on the Metra Union Pacific Northwest line throughout the day Friday. The National Transportation Safety Board will not investigate the incident because it was ruled a driver error.
|Kazimierz Karasek | Photo courtesy: Journal & Topics Newspaper|