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Woman killed, two children hurt when Metra train hits van

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Updated: November 18, 2012 6:42AM

A grieving family grappled Tuesday with a horrible reality: How to tell two small children their mother didn’t survive when a Metra train crashed into their minivan as she drove them to school.

“They haven’t asked yet,” said the children’s aunt, Taja Hicks, fighting hard to keep from breaking down. “I’m afraid of that question.”

Tristian Hicks Williams, 26, died in the 8:15 a.m. accident at 115th Street near Vincennes Avenue in the South Side’s Morgan Park neighborhood.

Witnesses said she drove around lowered crossing gates before the No. 302 Metra Rock Island District Line hit the minivan, causing it to roll over. Metra said the engineer told them the driver went around the gates, which were operating properly.

Williams’ two sons, JonKing, 5, and Jayvon, 4, were injured but expected to be OK.

Good samaritan Perry Logan, who was driving his 5-year-old daughter to school and his 3-year-old twins to day care, rescued the Williams children from the ravaged minivan.

“I heard the children in the back crying, screaming for help, screaming ‘Mommy, somebody help me,’ ” said Logan, 23.

He helped Jayvon, whos had a bloody nose and a cut on his face, crawl out the back window.

JonKing’s legs were broken.

“He wasn’t able to move his legs,” Logan said. “I didn’t want to move him too much. He was conscious, screaming, begging me to pick him up, hold him.”

JonKing, a first-grader whose sixth birthday is Wednesday, had surgery to repair his fractured legs Tuesday at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.

Hicks, Williams’ sister, said Jayvon was “scared. Other than that, he’s OK.”

Williams’ stunned husband, Bill, was at the hospital by the time JonKing got out of surgery.

“Right now, all I can tell you is she was a lovely wife and lovely mother,” Bill Williams said. “That’s all that really mattered. That’s all that I really care about.”

Williams and Hicks said they were unclear about how the minivan ended up in the path of the train.

“Nobody has talked to us or told us what had happened. Maybe she was running late. I don’t know, ” Hicks said.

She described her sister as a creative and devoted mother who was always trying to find ways to engage her boys.

“She’s a really good mom,” she said. “We just went to the circus Saturday. Anything she could find to do with the kids she would do.”

Hicks said her sister sometimes took care of her young son.

“I always told her she needed to be a preschool teacher,” Hicks said. “She made up songs for my son to learn his multiplication tables.”

Hicks said her sister had been married for about six years and that she and her husband had just bought their first home, on the South Side.

Logan, who was behind Williams’ minivan, described what he saw.

“The rails were down, the lights were flashing, the train was going to come,” he said. “I was right behind the car. The van just went around the railroad crossing, and two seconds later the train.”

He said he could see Williams breathing when he pulled the boys out. He was scared that the minivan was going to burst into flames, he said.

“I’ve seen movies where the police took too long to do something” and then dripping gasoline ignites a vehicle on fire, he said. “At the time I was scared. While I was pulling the kids out I was crying. But happy at the same time they were alive. It happened so fast.”

Logan, who works as a busboy at a Japanese hibachi steak house, shrugged off the idea that he was a hero.

“I feel like it’s what anybody should have done,” he said. “It’s just something a normal person should do in a normal situation. I have kids myself, and I would want somebody to help my kids. I’m just trying to do my best to be a good citizen.”

He was planning to take one of his 3-year-old twins to the doctor Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning after her day care teacher told him she was screaming throughout the day, upset about what she had seen.

Hicks said she was grateful for Logan’s quick thinking.

“Thank you, thank you for everything you did to try to help my nephews in this situation, for lending your hand,” she said.

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