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Union Pacific employee: Track ‘didn’t look exactly right’ before deadly wreck

A freight traderailed its crossing bridge collapsed Wednesday July 4th near Glenview Northbrook border. Phofor Sun-Times by Lee Hogan.

A freight train derailed and its crossing bridge collapsed Wednesday, July, 4th, near the Glenview and Northbrook border. Photo for the Sun-Times by Lee Hogan.

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Updated: August 18, 2012 6:16AM

A Union Pacific employee noticed something that “didn’t look exactly right” on the track just before a freight train derailed July 4 near Northbrook, killing a Glenview couple when a rail bridge collapsed atop their vehicle, the railroad company revealed Monday night.

“We had someone who maintained the signal system that had noticed something casually that didn’t look exactly right on the track,” Joseph Bateman, Union Pacific spokesman said. “He called the expert in to have a second look to see if it was safe to operate…by the time the expert came to take a look, the accident had occurred.”

The details emerged as the railroad company addressed its preliminary findings at a community meeting, maintaining there were no structural problems to the rail bridge that collapsed atop the vehicle.

“We have found no evidence that there was anything wrong with the bridge,” Bateman said. “We believe that we had a heat related anomaly to the track immediately preceding the bridge, mostly developing underneath the train as it was traveling over the bridge.”

More than three dozen community members addressed officials with questions and concerns. Some questioned why the company has not changed its speed limits during extreme temperatures near the rail bridge, despite its history. The bridge sustained damage in 2009 in another derailment.

“Well if you lived here for 18 years, you would know that every time a train went over that bridge, you would hear bang, bang, bang, bang,” Jay Levine said. “If you bang on something long enough it’s going to fail.”

Earlier Monday, Robert A. Clifford, lead attorney for the family of victims Burton and Zorine Lindner, said the tragedy requires the “independent, unbiased investigative resources of the NTSB,” which could result in “significant nationwide safety information.” The Federal Railroad Administration and Union Pacific Railroad Company are already investigating the crash, but Clifford said the railroad is “obviously biased and has already demonstrated a lack of transparency in the derailment facts that have been released to the public.”

Mike Long, Federal Railroad Administration regional administrator, said the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates rail, highway, pipeline and maritime accidents, chose not to participate in the initial derailment investigation, but can still join the investigation: “It is up to the NTSB whether or not to participate,” Long said.

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