CN warning system failed in fatal crossing collision

  • Katie Lunn

    Katie Lunn

Published: 4/19/2010 9:41 PM

With no safety gates or lights to warn her, Katie Lunn had no chance as a speeding Amtrak train approached her SUV Friday.

The young Naperville dance teacher died after the train rammed into her vehicle as she headed home after a performance at Governor's State University.

The Canadian National Railway confirmed Monday that the warning system was not functioning properly at the Stuenkel Road crossing in University Park when the accident occurred. A CN crew had been working at the crossing that day, but officials would not comment on reports they had deactivated the warning system and not turned it back on.

"CN, in cooperation with Amtrak, the Federal Railroad Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, is performing a complete and thorough investigation to determine the exact circumstances of this incident," an e-mail by the railroad stated. "That investigation includes an exhaustive review and examination of infrastructure elements as well as interviews of eyewitnesses and railroad employees."

Several witnesses said the gates and lights were inactive just before the crash. Lunn, 26, lived in Chicago and was an instructor and manager at the School of Performing Arts in Naperville.

"CN has now tested the crossing, and has determined it is operating safely and in full accordance with federal regulations. In the past 24 hours, nine freight trains and six Amtrak trains have moved over the Stuenkel Road crossing and the grade crossing protection system has activated properly," officials said.

CN's safety record has been a concern in some suburbs in the wake of its purchase of the underused EJ&E Railway in 2008. The acquisition drew opposition from communities along the EJ&E tracks, who said they feared CN's plan to move freight traffic onto the smaller railroad would cause traffic, noise and safety issues. The EJ&E runs in a semicircle between Gary, Ind., and Waukegan.

The railroad stated "safety is always our highest priority, and we will continue to do everything within our abilities to ensure our crossings are safe for the public."

Lunn graduated from Oklahoma City University with a degree in dance management and started at the School of Performing Arts about five years ago.

Friends and relatives called Lunn "one of a kind," and an uplifting mentor to the girls she taught.