Personal Injury

Trucker blamed for fiery Chicago train crash had 50-plus traffic citations

The driver of a semi truck who allegedly caused a collision with a Chicago commuter train Friday had more than 50 traffic citations on his driving record, including a drunken-driving arrest, but still retained his commercial driver’s license, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Kazimierz Karasek, 59, the self-employed owner / operator of a semi truck, was hauling a load of cement when he came to a railroad crossing in Mount Prospect. According to witnesses, Mr. Karasek ignored the illuminated no-turn sign and warning lights at the crossing rather than wait, and drove around the closed gates. The cab of his truck then collided with a Metra Union Pacific Northwest train traveling about 50 mph around 8:40 a.m. The crash sheared the trailer of Mr. Karasek’s truck from the cab, which exploded on impact and plunged the second train car into a smoky fireball.

Passengers were able to escape from the doors and windows of the charred train car. The crash injured about three dozen passengers, most of whom were taken to local hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries. The only fatality was Mr. Karasek, who died at the scene of the crash.

According to the Chicago Tribune, most of Mr. Karasek’s traffic citations were issued in Cook County for violations involving speeding, driving the wrong way on a divided highway, and hauling overweight loads. He also racked up additional citations in Lake and DuPage counties, including the DUI, which was issued in Elmhurst.

As botched as Mr. Karasek’s driving record was, his commercial driver’s license was never affected. As Terry Montalbano, the Illinois Secretary of State’s commercial license administrator explained to the Chicago Tribune, truck drivers can have their commercial licenses “disqualified” in a couple of ways: if their regular driver’s license is suspended or revoked, or if they accrue two or more serious traffic violations in a commercial vehicle within three years. Neither of these scenarios applied to Mr. Karasek.

Driving the wrong way and disregarding a traffic signal, for instance, are not considered serious violations. Other violations may not have led to convictions or supervision, Montalbano said. As for the DUI charge, Mr. Karasek received an order of supervision for it, but his regular driver’s license wouldn’t have been suspended.