Fiery train crash caught on camera

January 29, 2008 4:59:28 PM PST
A passerby helped avert a deadly tragedy on the Metra tracks Monday. A minivan got stuck on the track, and the driver was pulled off the tracks just before one train and then another crashed into the van.

Franciszek Chudzik, 72, was allegedly doing a little drinking and then did some driving. He misjudged a turn and drove onto the railroad tracks and got stuck. Police were called and an officer raced to the scene with his camera rolling.

Seconds after Chudzik stopped, the minivan was smashed by an inbound Metra train traveling more than 60 miles per hour. The officer said he was thinking, "Oh no, how many people were in the minivan?"

"It goes through your mind, how many people were in the car? You don't want to think the worst," said officer Steve Ruban.

He would find out that the driver was the only person in the minivan, and he got out before the crash.

Chudzik had been standing on the tracks until Dan Nugent, who was drinking a cup of coffee a stone's throw away, ran over and pulled him out of harm's way.

"My gut was that he was confused. So I grabbed him and said, 'Let's go.' I don't even know if he understood me," said Nugent.

Chudzik was safe, and police were frantically calling train dispatch to stop train traffic, but that wouldn't happen fast enough because 30 seconds later, Chudzik's van gpt hit again by an outbound Metra train filled with passengers.

The van started on fire because of the gas tank. The driver was charged with DUI after blowing twice the legal limit on the breathalyzer. But he is still grateful.

"He is thankful because if it weren't for the action of the Good Samaritan, he would be dead," said Dep. Chief Mark Wodka, Hinsdale police.

And the good Samaritan Nugent, who knows about the dangers of drinking and driving, is glad he could help.

"I tried to do something, so many people tried to help me, it was payback time," he said.

Cars parked near the accident site were damaged by flying debris, a window was knocked out of a railroad station eatery, but the damage was only to property, not people.

The dashboard tape will be used by police stations to teach about the dangers of drinking and driving.