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Illinois train accident kills mother, 3 kids headed to parade

Fault for a traffic accident may not be isolated to a single vehicle operator. Crash investigations sometimes determine blame is shared. In some cases, fault extends to third parties whose actions or inactions resulted in serious but preventable injuries or fatalities.

A 35-year-old mother and three children, ages 10 to 18, died recently following an Illinois train accident, one block from the family's intended destination - the Vandalia Halloween parade. The woman's 9-year-old son, also in the Chrysler Pacifica when the minivan was struck at a railroad crossing, was injured.

Accounts of the fatal accident differ among victims' relatives, witnesses and police investigators. Vandalia authorities claim the driver ignored a crossing gate and flashing signals to "beat the train." A camera mounted on the locomotive apparently showed a vehicle crossing but not stopped on the train tracks - the driver appeared unaware a train was approaching the crossing.

A family member stated the driver was unable to move the minivan out of the way, once the crossing gates descended. A Vandalia woman, who witnessed the collision, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the driver did not move around the crossing gates, as police assumed, but was caught on the tracks in a line of traffic headed to the parade.

Three children died instantly in the train crash. The driver lingered in a coma until the following day, when family members agreed to remove life support. The surviving child is unaware of the losses of his mother and siblings, as relatives work to raise money for four funerals, expected to cost $30,000.

Auto-railroad accident investigators probe into the behaviors of the locomotive operator and driver. The conditions of the railroad tracks, signals, gate and road are checked for flaws. In some cases, railroad companies or local governments can be held accountable for negligence, which a personal injury and wrongful death attorney may help to determine.

Source: KSDK, "Vandalia mom remembered as loving parent" Farrah Fazal, Nov. 01, 2014

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