Dispatchers' actions prevent possible derailment

November 9, 2010 (ANTIOCH, Ill.)

It happened Sunday night on the tracks near Route 83 and Grass Lake Road. The train came to a halt just 40 yards before it would have smashed into their car.

The couple was traveling in a construction zone on Grass Lake Road and Route 83 when the male driver became confused by a detour sign and ended up stuck on some railroad tracks.

The female passenger, who is seven months pregnant, called 9-1-1.

"She was upset. She had said that they weren't from around here and gotten confused," said Tia Chinn, Antioch police dispatcher.

Antioch police dispatchers Kim Winandy and Tia Chinn were on duty when the call came in around 7:40 Sunday evening.

As Chinn instructed the couple to leave their Pontiac Firebird, Winandy immediately called Canadian National train dispatchers.

"At that point one of our officers said that they heard a train, and luckily I was already on the line with Canadian National," Winandy said.

A 70-car freight train was less than four minutes from the stuck car.

Canadian National notified the engineer who managed to stop the train just 40 yards from the car.

Police say, if the call had come 10 seconds later, there likely would have been an impact and possibly a derailment.

"We don't know what the rail train was carrying. There's businesses in that area. Who knows what could have happened?" said Winandy.

"The worst-case scenario with the train, it would have been carrying some sort of hazardous material, and there's a neighborhood right there," Chinn said.

The Antioch police chief is hailing Winandy and Chinn -- and all of his dispatchers -- as unsung heroes.

"They're the ones that get us there safely. They're updating us while we're en route to safety issues," said Antioch Police Chief Craig Somerville.

"Not to downplay it by any means, but it's what you're trained to do...and you go right back at it the next day," said Winandy.

Police say no one was injured in the incident, although the pregnant woman was hospitalized as a precautionary measure.

The couple did not want to be identified.

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