Article for Medill: Train wreck death

Glenview Police identified Peter Guttilla, 87, of the 500 block of Briar Hill Lane, Glenview, as the man who died after a Metra train struck his car on Thursday morning.

Exactly how and why Guttilla’s car got onto the tracks is still under investigation, said Commander Don Hohs of the Glenview Police Department. A final report on the accident will have to wait until the Cook County Medical Examiner completes its investigation.

“We’re assuming there was a medical condition at the time,” Hohs said.

On Thursday morning an eastbound Buick Century driven by Guttilla rolled under the lowered railroad crossing guard in the 1800 block of Glenview Road and pushed the guard up and over the top of the car, according to Hohs. The car continued toward the train tracks and a northbound Metra train struck and mangled the car’s front passenger side. The impact batted the car into a light pole, tree and black station wagon before the car settled in the parking lot of Bess Hardware, which sits next to the tracks.

Glenview firefighters broke the car’s windows and used an axe to pry open the car door before pulling Guttilla free, said Deputy Chief Wayne Globerger of Glenview Fire Department. Paramedics took Guttilla to Lutheran General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Peter Guttilla’s son, Chicago resident Nicholas Guttilla, 61, said his father was “enjoying his retirement years.”

“It kind of came as a shock,” Nicholas said. He said his father worked in law enforcement his whole life and was the former chief of the Wheeling Police Department who had lived in Glenview for 50 years.

Nicholas said his father did not suffer from any serious medical conditions that might have explained what happened when his car went onto the tracks.

Dan Schnolis, Media Relations Specialist with Metra, said the train was delayed for 43 minutes while police officers and firefighters investigated and secured the accident scene.

Guttilla’s death is the sixth since Jan. 1, 2003, involving a Metra train and a vehicle, Schnolis said.

On Jan. 14, 2003, another one of the six deaths resulted after an accident at the Chestnut Avenue crossing – about one mile north of the Glenview Road crossing. A train struck a vehicle driven by an 84-year-old man at 11:40 a.m. and the crash resulted in the man’s death, according to a report from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

“It [the six deaths] is about on the level with what we experience year to year,” Schnolis said. He said Metra will investigate the accident but not undertake any special inspection of Metra’s train system.

More than 150 deaths associated with rail crossings occurred in the United States from January to June 2003, according to a preliminary report by the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis.

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