Many railroad systems, including some in Connecticut, are constructed in such ways that tracks (and trains) exist and travel in suburban areas. In fact, a commuter system in another state has at least four sets of tracks that carry approximately 150 trains through local neighborhoods on a daily basis. There was recently a tragedy on one set of tracks, and a railroad spokesman says he believes he knows a way to help reduce the potential for similar railroad accidents in the future.
The recent incident involved two local police officers who were reportedly deployed to the area after shots were fired. They were engaged in a foot search for the person or people who might have been responsible for the shooting. Sadly, both officers lost their lives when a fast-moving Metra train hit them from behind.
The officers had apparently seen another train heading north on the tracks, and officials believe the noise generated from that train might have drowned out the sound of the faster moving train approaching them from behind. It is common for local authorities and rail system officials to communicate with each other when police are in pursuit of a suspect in a particular area. Often, railroad officials will receive requests (then subsequently notify their engineers) to stop all train movement while an investigation is underway on or near the tracks.
For whatever reason, it seems the Metra system involved in the fatal accident was never notified of the police officers’ presence that day and received no request to halt train traffic in the area. The official who spoke about the tragedy says he believes that police should train their officers to stop criminal pursuits if it means they must step onto railroad tracks to continue. He said allowing officers onto tracks is simply too dangerous. When railroad accidents occur in Connecticut or elsewhere, engineers, conductors or linemen are often injured, in which case they may file claims for benefits to help them meet expenses during recovery. This is all done through the Federal Employers Liability Act process.