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Train Deaths Ruled Accidental, Driver Fined For Logs

May 16, 1999

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A coroner's inquest into the truck-train crash that killed 11 people in Bourbonnais, IL, in March ruled that the deaths were accidental. However, that doesn't prevent prosecutors from bringing charges against truck driver John Stokes.

The train's engineer, conductor and assistant conductor did not attend the hearing, because they were still being counseled for stress related to the accident. The coroner's inquest jury heard from two Bourbonnais police officers and the town's fire chief.
Stokes, whose flatbed truck was on the tracks when the Amtrak train slammed into it March 15, invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination during the hearing. Stokes is losing his commercial driver's license for 60 days for a number of tickets that came to light after the crash.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Stokes also will be fined $5,500 by federal officials for falsified log books - the maximum fine that can be levied by the Federal Highway Administration. The newspaper reports that a source familiar with the investigation says Stokes understated the number of hours he was driving, and that the log books represented "an extreme pattern of falsification."
Investigators are still trying to determine whether Stokes tried to go around the crossing gates and beat the train.

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