A school bus driver has told investigators that she faced a red light and heard no warning on a railroad crossing before a commuter train slammed into her bus and killed seven students.
As the first of those victims was buried Friday, the National Transportation Safety Board urged local transportation officials across the country to determine if other railroad crossings pose the same hazard as the one in Fox River Grove.
Investigators are trying to determine why the bus carrying 35 students sat at the traffic light Wednesday with about 3 1/2 feet of its rear in the path of the train.
The driver, Patricia Catencamp, told investigators that the traffic light at the crossing never turned green, she didn’t hear any warnings from students and she never saw or heard the train.
“There was a lot of chaos on the bus,” National Transportation Safety Board member John Goglia said Thursday night as the on-scene investigation wrapped up. “She did not hear a horn.”
Goglia said that, regardless of whether the driver saw the train, she would have had little time to react.
“I’m troubled by the timing sequence,” Goglia said Friday of the warning devices at that intersection. “There could be hundreds like this, there could be one more.”
Meanwhile, dazed teen-agers wearing team jackets hugged and wept under a gray sky Friday as they buried the first of the victims.
“Michael Hoffman had friends who are 2 years old, and he had friends who are 82,” Rabbi David Kalendar told the 400 mourners.
At the rail crossing where 14-year-old Michael and the six others died, a hand-lettered sign was taped to a traffic pole: “Seven angels crossing.”