Christopher T. Davis, 19, killed after Metra/car collision at crash-prone intersection

Still from surveillance camera footage just before the impact.
Still from surveillance camera footage just before the impact.

Update 2/18/20 8:45 PM: Metra originally stated that the victim was walking west on 87th; they later corrected that statement to say that he was walking east.

Last week 19-year-old Christopher T. Davis was fatally struck while walking in Chicago’s Ashburn community area, after a driver was caught in front of a Metra gate and their car was hit by a train. Three other people were also critically injured in the crash. There have been multiple other train-car collisions at this site.

On Wednesday, February 12, at about 7:30 p.m., Davis was on foot at the southwest corner of 87th Street and Pulaski Road, west of the Metra SouthWest Service line tracks, “presumably waiting to cross to the east,” according to Metra spokesman Michael Gillis. It’s a complex, pedestrian-hostile junction — 87th and Pulaski are both seven- or eight-lane streets, and there are channelized turn lanes on both sides of the east leg of the intersection. The Metra line runs southwest-northeast through the middle of the intersection. Just west is the five-way junction of 87th, Komensky Avenue, and Southwest Highway, which also has eight lanes, and parallels the Metra tracks.

The complex, pedestrian-hostile intersection where Thomas was struck. Image: Google Maps
The complex, pedestrian-hostile intersection where Davis was struck. Image: Google Maps

Surveillance video published by the Chicago Sun-Times shows the westbound driver of a car on 87th go past a Metra gate at a stoplight shortly before the gate drops down on the trunk of the car. The driver tries to reverse through the gate, then pulls forward, as an outbound train approaches and strikes the vehicle.

According to an NBC Chicago report, the car struck Davis and he wound up pinned under the train. Davis, who lived in south-suburban Homewood, was transported to Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, and pronounced dead at 3:51 p.m. on Friday, February 14.

According to the Sun-Times, three other people were taken in critical condition to Christ Medical and the University of Chicago Medical Center.

On Thursday night Metra released a statement about the tragedy: “Safety is always Metra’s highest priority. This crossing is equipped with several warning devices, including lights, bells and quad gates, and we know those warning devices activated last night. We also know the engineer sounded his horn at the crossing as required. The incident remains under investigation.”

An NBC Chicago investigation found that there were four train-motor vehicle crashes at the 87th/Pulaski Metra crossing over the past eight years, according to Federal Railroad Administration collision reports.

The southwest corner of the 87th and Pulaski intersection, where Davis was reportedly standing when he was struck. Image: Google Maps
The southwest corner of the 87th and Pulaski intersection, where Davis was reportedly standing when he was struck. Image: Google Maps

“Cars should not be allowed to be caught between the gate and those tracks,” lawyer Ben Crane told NBC in the wake of this most recent crash. Crane said he placed a camera at the intersection to prove it’s not safe. He noted that in 2015 two people were killed when an outbound SouthWest Service train struck their car as the driver tried to make it through the intersection.

“This is not a situation where somebody ran through the gate or ran around the gate,” Crane told NBC in regards to the crash that killed Davis. “[The driver was] in a place they are allowed to be, and the train started coming and the gates come down behind them… You can’t just put your head in the sand. It’s going to happen again.”

Fatality Tracker: 2020 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths on surface streets
Pedestrian: 4
Bicyclist: 0

Note: Streetsblog Chicago’s traffic death numbers represent fatal crashes on Chicago surface streets, based on media reports and/or preliminary Chicago Police Department data released by the Chicago Department of Transportation.

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