Sons Say Feds Stalling Probe of Fatal Train Derailment

Burton and Zorine Lindner were in their car when train derailed, bridge collapsed near Shermer and Willow roads in Northbrook

As the July 4 anniversary of their parents' deaths nears, two Chicago-area men on Tuesday lashed out at federal investigators who they say have offered little to no information as to why a bridge collapsed after a train derailed and buried their parents under tons of coal.

Burton and Zorine Lindner were in their car while underneath a bridge near Shermer and Willow roads, in Northbrook, last Independence Day when part of a 138-car freight train on its way from Wyoming to Wisconsin went off the tracks. The weight of the train’s pull brought the bridge down with it.

The couples' sons, Matt and Rob Lindner, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Union Pacific but say the suit is caught up in the appeals process.

"The Federal Railroad Association agency decided, oh, they wanted to handle this one. They jumped right in. A year later they've done no investigation that we know of, there's no report that they put out. We don't know what happened," Rob Lindner said Tuesday.

Internal, handwritten notes supplied by Union Pacific further clarify what the company said in the days following the accident: that an employee had reported an anomaly with the track in the hours before the train derailed that day.

"I think the [railroad] ties are moving, I'm not sure," the employee wrote in requesting a "T.I.," or track inspector, to the scene to further investigate. 

The Lindners were already buried under the rubble by the time that TI arrived at the bridge. Their bodies were found the following day.

Also contained in the Union Pacific notes is one that reads: "saw derailment," which could mean that either the railroad worker or the track inspector witnessed the accident.

Despite the concerns with the track, the Lindner's attorney said there'd been no effort to stop or divert any trains. Furthermore, there had also been a previous accident at the same location, in November 2009, when up to 20 cars derailed.

"My parent obviously knew about what had happened," said Rob Lindner. "Before you went under the bridge you would see chunks from under the bridge."

With the Thursday anniversary approaching, the sons said they hope they'll soon get answers as to why the bridge cascaded down.

"If a tragedy like this happens you should find out why," said Rob Linder.

The sons say they're still waiting to learn if their lawsuit will be heard in federal or in state court.

Shermer Road has since been filed with gravel and new railroad ties have been laid to accomodate the nearly one dozen freight trains that pass through the area each day.

Contact Us