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Illinois Central Railroad pays $6 million crash settlement

A train accident took the life of a Naperville-born dance teacher in the summer of 2010. A wrongful death lawsuit filed by the victim's parents recently settled out of court the night before a jury was scheduled to hear the case.

The Illinois Central Railroad Company accepted blame for the train accident and settled the lawsuit for $6 million.

The 26-year-old woman, a teacher at Chicago's Joffrey Ballet School and Naperville's School of Performing Arts, was killed by an oncoming Amtrak train as her SUV crossed the tracks. The woman had been returning to her Chicago residence from a dance event in University Park, where dozens of her students performed in an American Dance Awards competition.

The SUV driver reportedly had no time to react as she sat stuck in traffic on the tracks at the railroad crossing.

Prosecutors were prepared to go to trial and show that the railroad crossing signals and gate were not in operation at the time of the tragedy. The lawsuit claimed crews from Canadian National Railway failed to reactivate the train crossing's signals after completing a project at the crossing earlier in the day.

A videotape of the fatal train crash was expected to be admitted as evidence and shown to jurors.

A Cook County prosecutor stated that there was no chance for a victim to know there was a train coming. The attorney said the dance teacher had no chance to get out of the way because there were no lights, no gates, no anything.

The warning sound of a conductor's horn apparently came too late for the SUV driver to move her vehicle to safety.

The wrongful death suit, filed shortly after the dance instructor's death, originally asked for $50,000 in damages. Part of the money requested was designated for a memorial fund in the victim's name meant to promote train and traffic safety.

Source: dailyherald.com, "$6 million settlement in Naperville dance teacher's death," Paul Biasco, March 13, 2012

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