Ceremony marks 25 years since 11 killed, 122 injured in Bourbonnais Amtrak train crash

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Saturday, March 16, 2024
Ceremony marks 25 years since deadly south suburban train crash
A Bourbonnais, Illinois ceremony marked 25 years since a semi and Amtrak train crash killed 11 people and injured 122 others.

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (WLS) -- A ceremony on Friday marked 25 years since a deadly Amtrak train crash in Bourbonnais.

Eleven people died and 122 others were hurt when the train hit a semi-trailer. The crash left a permanent and painful mark on the community.

It is a tragedy remembered.

"It's sad. You just want to gather together," said Bourbonnais resident Jane Residore.

It has been 25 years since the Village of Bourbonnais and Kankakee County endured one of the worst tragedies in the area, but for many there, like James Terrell, who was working security at a local hospital that night, the memory of it has yet to fade.

"I figured I'd come just to see if I recognized anyone and reminisce about what went on that night," Terrell said.

On the evening of March 15, 1999 a semi-tractor trailer carrying several tons of steel collided with Amtrak's City of New Orleans Train.

"There were so many heroes that stepped forward: fire, police, private businesses," said Bourbonnais Mayor Paul Schore.

The collision happened at the McKnight Road railroad crossing as the southbound train traveled through Bourbonnais with 198 passengers and a crew of 17.

A detective at the time, Bourbonnais Police Department Chief James Phelps was one of the many first responders on scene.

"Was like a scene out of a movie. It's something that you never think you are going to experience yourself," Phelps said.

On Friday afternoon, the memorial service commemorated the victims, but also sought to celebrate the survivors.

To support the effort, the village has dedicated a section of their website for people to share their remembrance of and thoughts about the tragedy.

And while two memorial plaques adorn the village's memorial gardens as a testament to this close-knit community, it also is poof of the ongoing collective journey to heal as some struggle to move on.

"You can heal, but you never forget it," said former Village of Bourbonnais Trustee Gary Residore.