Men killed in race against Metra train

August 17, 2006


(BERWYN) Witnesses reported seeing two men in a Kia blow through a stop sign and possibly speed around crossing gates before they drove into the path of a Metra train on Wednesday afternoon. Both men were killed.

Witnesses told police they saw the silver Kia Spectra, driven by 37-year-old Thomas Buckingham eastbound on Stanley Avenue, blow a stop sign at Stanley and East avenues, and possibly speed around the crossing gates before the train crashed into them, said Berwyn Police Cmdr. Tom O’Halloran.

Police could not confirm these reports immediately, he said.

Buckingham -- who lived in downstate Royalton but had been staying with relatives in Chicago -- and Donald Watz of Cicero may have been wearing their seat belts, said O’Halloran, because emergency crews were heard yelling for a knife to cut the belts during the extrication process.

It was unknown where the two were headed when they drove around the gates or why they drove around the gates, according to O’Halloran, who did not immediately know how the two knew each other or what they did for a living.

Buckingham, 37, of the 200 block of North 5th Street in Royalton, Ill., was pronounced dead at the Stein Institute at 6:05 p.m. Wednesday, according to a spokesman for the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office. Watz, 40, of the 1800 block of South 58th Court in Cicero, was pronounced dead at 5:55 p.m. Wednesday at the Stein Institute, according to the spokesman.

The accident occurred on the tracks along Windsor Avenue in Berwyn, according to a Metra spokesman, close to the Berwyn station at the 6800 block of West Windsor.

There was no indication that drugs or alcohol played a part in the accident as of 10 a.m. Thursday, said O’Halloran. The two were inside a 2002, four-door Kia Spectra at the time of the accident, he said.

Amtrak spokesman Mark Magliari said the No. 5. California Zephyr was westbound from Chicago to San Francisco and had left Chicago at about 1:50 p.m. The Kia pulled into the train’s path about nine miles west of Chicago, he said.

There were no reported injuries on the train, which carried about 350 passengers, he added.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Although the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office said Watz’s home address was in Cicero, O’Halloran said Watz lived in Chicago.)