Little Bits of History

Fox River Grove

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 25, 2012

Fox River Grove bus accident scene

October 25, 1995: A train runs into a school bus. Fox River Grove, Illinois is a small village northwest of Chicago. The population is around 5,000 living in the 1.8 square mile community.  Because of its proximity to Chicago, Metra trains run for commuters working in the city. On this day, the train was running its regularly scheduled trip. However, the school bus was driven by a substitute driver, Patricia Catencamp. The bus was approaching Highway 14 on Algonquin Road. There were two tracks owned by the Union Pacific Railroad, a small space, and then the highway with a stop light at the intersection. Because the railway communicates with the traffic light, this is called an “interconnected crossing” and it supposed to work seamlessly.

Thirty-two seconds before the impact with the train traveling at 66 miles per hour, the communication system deemed there was time and waited another eight seconds before communicating with the traffic light. One second later, the light responded and prepared to turn red. The school bus also slowly approached the intersection. Eleven seconds later, with pedestrian traffic having had time to clear the intersection, the traffic signal on US 14 turned yellow. The train was now traveling at 69 mph. At 7.5 seconds before impact, the light on US 14 turned red with an all red interval. The train was only 600 feet from the bus when the light turned green.

The bus was longer than the space between tracks and light. In fact, the bus was over the tracks by about three inches. Trains, however, are wider than the tracks they ride on and the Metra extended three feet past the rails. Even if the driver had realized the danger, her only other option at the time was to pull into the intersection while the light was still red. The high school children on the bus at first joked about the gates having come down and trapping the bus. They quickly began to scream for the bus to pull forward. The driver, unaware of the impending impact, was concerned that something was going wrong inside the bus. She did not pull forward.

The train engaged the emergency brakes and slowed to 60 mph before impact at 7:10 AM. With impact, the body was separated from the chassis of the bus and it was sent careening into the intersection. Five students were instantly killed by the impact and two later died from injuries sustained. Another 21 students were injured, some critically. Most of the injuries were blunt trauma and head injuries. Because of the proximity of the crash to the police station, help was immediately available at the scene. The driver’s inexperience was partially at fault. The poor design of the intersection along with improper preemption programming were also culpable.

Art has to move you and design does not, unless it’s a good design for a bus. – David Hockney

Finding a good bus driver can be as important as finding a good musician. – Reba McEntire

I hated school. Even to this day, when I see a school bus it’s just depressing to me. The poor little kids. – Dolly Parton

Know how to travel from your town to a nearby town without a car, either by bus or by rail. – Marilyn vos Savant

Also on this day:

Who Blinked? – In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis confrontation between Adlai Stevenson and Valerian Zorin took place.
George, George, George – In 1760, George III began his reign in England.
Nuke It – In 1955, microwaves became available for home use.

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One Response

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on October 25, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Reba McEntire may be the only person on Earth selfish enough to compare the safety of children with her making more money.


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