Fire chief remembers Fox River Grove bus-train tragedy 20 years later

FOX RIVER GROVE, Ill. (WLS) -- Sunday will mark 20 years since a Metra train crashed into a school bus in the far northwest suburb of Fox River Grove, killing seven children.

The deputy fire chief for Fox River Grove was at the scene 20 seconds after the call went out. This is his story, all these years later.

"To this point, 20 years afterwards, it still affects me," says Deputy Chief Jim Kreher. "I knew we had to get a lot of ambulances here; we had a lot of patients. I didn't know the severity of some of the patients. Of course, seven of them died."

In 1995, a Metra train slammed into the back of a school bus that had crossed but not cleared the train tracks.

"It's emotional. It gets to you, and I think it's something that will affects a lot of us for the rest of our lives," says Kreher.

Even now the fire department has reminders of the students killed on their patches and ambulance.

"It has blue and white ribbons on it to signify Cary-Grove High School, those are the colors of Cary-Grove," he says. "On the seven, we have angel wings on each side of the seven on the side of our ambulances. That's for the firefighters to remember and for the people of our community to see that and remember what happened."

There's also a memorial.

"Every year on October 25th, I go down to the memorial at 7 in the morning and see some of the parents and friends," says Kreher. "I think it's a healing process. I think it's a way for us to remember the kids, what happened that day, a way to see each other and know we are going to be there each year at that time."

For the last 7 years, the fire department has helped sponsor a blood drive called the Seven Angels blood drive.

"Everybody still remembers the bus accident then, so it's a little way for everyone to get together again and help out everybody else, just like everybody helped us out on that day," he says.

The blood drive is being held Saturday, Oct. 24, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Station One in Fox River Grove. Walk-ups are welcome, but they prefer participants to register online. To register for the blood drive, click here.
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