CLARENDON HILLS, IL – The locomotive engineer for the Metra train that crashed into a box truck last year in Clarendon Hills told investigators that he knew it was going to happen moments before
After he rounded a curve, engineer Robert Berg said he saw the truck blocking the tracks and people near it. No traffic was in front of the vehicle, according to a transcript. Berg figured the truck was unable to move.
He told investigators he immediately turned on the emergency brake, which doesn’t take full effect immediately. And he turned on the train’s whistle.
Then he got out of the locomotive because he said he was concerned about debris coming through the windshield.
“So I blew the whistle as long as I felt it was safe to do so, and then I opened the door and I walked or jogged, whatever, to the middle or the end of the aisle,” said Berg, who was in his 46th year in his rail career.
He said he alerted others to prepare for the crash.
Last month, the National Transportation Safety Board released the information from its investigation into the May 11, 2022, crash at Clarendon Hills’ Prospect Avenue. The agency does not assign fault.
When the train hit the truck, the truck whipped around and crashed into a passenger car. Then, 72-year-old passenger Christina Lopez of Downers Grove was ejected from a train window and killed. She was headed to La Grange to see her sister.
In his interview with investigators, Berg said he had a “ton of close calls” during his career.
“At the time that I blew the whistle and put it in emergency, I pretty much knew that this was going to happen,” he said.
In his interview with investigators, the box truck’s driver, Sam Cubic, said his vehicle stalled as he was crossing the tracks.
“I tried to start it up. It won’t start up. I tried so many times, four, five times,” said Cubic, who was 54 at the time. “And the (gate) went down. And after that, I try again, again, again. I saw a train coming from the other side. So I have to jump. If I didn’t jump, I will be dead.”
During the interview, Cubic, who worked for Del’s Movers, was asked whether he noticed anything unusual about the crossing. At the time, a mostly finished construction project on that part of Prospect Avenue was taking place.
Cubic described the crossing as entirely normal.
“I went over the bump and stuff,” he said. “It just died here by itself.”
The engineer’s and driver’s interviews were two days after the crash.