Just before 7:00pm Thursday, an SUV carrying a Greenville, Illinois, family drove onto the railroad tracks and into the path of an oncoming train. On Friday, railroad crews stopped trains at the Vandalia crossing and put down flares to control traffic after Thursday’s crash because the railroad warning equipment was damaged.
The railroad crossing intersection is very unique. It could be confusing to someone not from the town. The crossing has two tracks and a city street also parallels the tracks. It was dark and raining with lots of traffic because a Halloween parade was just about to get underway.
Although it’s still under investigation, the police chief said the driver may have become confused. Vandalia Police Chief Jeff Ray watched a video taken from inside the train when the crash happened. He said a crossing arm was behind the family’s vehicle, and had the driver not moved the tragedy could have been avoided.
Chief Ray said, “I didn’t see where she was boxed in on the railroad tracks… she would have stayed where she was at the train could have passed without incident.”
Alyssa Sewell, 18, Drake Wisnasky, 13 and Abby Wisnasky, 10, were all pronounced dead at the scene Thursday evening. Their mother, the driver, Crystal Anna, 35, was rushed to a St. Louis area hospital by helicopter. She died on Friday as a result of her injuries.
A fourth sibling, Dylan Wisnasky, 9, was also injured in the crash. He is also being treated at a St. Louis hospital. He is expected to survive.
The family was on the way to Vandalia’s annual Halloween parade on Gallatin Street. The scene of the crash is just one block away.
Vincent Davis, who saw the crash, said “It’s like a pit in my stomach. This is such a small town and everything.”
All three children attended classes in the Bond County Community School District #2. The district was receiving calls of support and calling in extra counselors.
The children are being remembered as givers, caring and outgoing.