Collapsed Bridge and Derailed Train Bury, Kill Couple Out for 4th of July Afternoon Drive

Posted on October 30, 2012

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Bad things do tend to happen on the road when least expected. An elderly couple out to spend some time together last Fourth of July were killed when the viaduct they were driving under just simply collapsed right on top of them.

At around 1:45 a.m. that day, Burton Lindner, a 69-year-old Chicago lawyer, and his wife, Zorine, a 70-year-old social worker in a school, were heading south on Shermer Road when a Union Pacific freight train hauling coal from Wyoming to an electricity plant in Wisconsin derailed and the overpass it was on at the time collapsed. Debris fell and crushed the Lindners inside their car. The following day, the couple’s bodies were dug  from under  tons of spilled coal, derailed freight hoppers and twisted ruins from the collapsed railroad bridge. Autopsy results from the Cook County medical examiner’s office confirmed they died of multiple injuries caused by the bridge collapse. The Lindners lived just a block away from the spot where they were killed.

Derailed TrainAuthorities said the investigation on the cause of the accident could take anywhere from three to twelve months to complete. It is still not clear if the derailment of 31 cars of the 138-car freight train caused the bridge to collapse or if the collapse of the bridge caused the derailment of the train or if there were other factors involved. Union Pacific spokesman Tom Lange said the railroad’s own preliminary investigation indicated that the intense summer heat caused the rails to expand and warp, likely leading to the derailment. He also said a total of 31 fully loaded coal cars went off the tracks and 28 of those cars, each roughly weighing 140 tons, had piled up on top of the 86-foot-long bridge, probably contributing to its collapse. On the speed of the train at the time of the accident, Lange said, “The normal track speed there is a maximum of 50 miles per hour. Because of the heat we had reduced it to 40 miles per hour. The data recorder on the train showed that it was traveling at 37 miles per hour.”

The victims’ son, Robert Lindner, a personal injury attorney like his father, filed a wrongful death complaint against Union Pacific Railroad Co. through the Chicago law firm of Fisher and LaMonica, alleging carelessness and negligence on the railroad’s part. The complaint seeks more than $50,000 in damages per victim. Circuit Court Judge William Maddux issued an order of protection allowing attorneys for the Lindner family to have their own experts inspect the crash site.

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