Three people died and two others were injured when an Amtrak train struck the vehicle they were riding in shortly after 3 p.m. Monday near Somonauk, which is in the northernmost part of La Salle County, the county where I reside in Illinois. I’m writing about the accident because nearly nine hours after it happened, you still can’t read even the briefest amount of information about it on the Web site of either of the county’s daily newspapers, The Times and the NewsTribune. (More about that shortly.)
However, news about the fatal crash can be found on the Web sites of the Aurora Beacon News (which covers the Somonauk area), the Peoria Journal Star, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and two radio stations. The Associated Press is reporting the story (erroneously stating the crash happened near Ottawa, which is not true — Amtrak doesn’t pass anywhere close to Ottawa) and so did at least one Chicago TV station during its 5 p.m. newscast.
As midnight approaches, here is what I know about the crash, with information culled from the various sources mentioned above:
Two people killed in the crash were Benjamin Rasmusen, 82, and Marilyn Rasmusen, 81, both of Leland. They were pronounced dead at the scene. The name of the third fatality hasn’t been released. Of the two people injured in the crash, one was air-lifted to a Rockford hospital; the other was treated and released from an unspecified hospital.
La Salle County Sheriff Tom Templeton said it appears the vehicle didn’t stop before crossing the tracks. I don’t know if there are crossing gates where the accident occurred, on East 23rd Road just north of Route 34.
Obviously news of the fatal crash was out by 5 p.m., yet neither of La Salle County’s daily newspapers have anything about it on their Web sites, not even a blurb from The Associated Press. What makes this omission particularly bad for The Times is a top story on its site titled “No injuries in train, vehicle accident.” That story, posted at 7:30 a.m. Monday, is about an Amtrak train collision Friday in downtown Sandwich.
(Full disclosure: I formerly was employed by The Times, which laid me off last November. The newsroom staff is smaller now, but that really is no excuse for not having any semblance of a story on the newspaper’s Web site this long after the fatal accident took place, especially with an AP story available for use.)
UPDATE: The Times finally posted a story about the accident at 11:44 a.m. Tuesday. The other three people in the car were the Rasmusens’ grandchildren, ages 10, 9 and 7, visiting from Bloomington, Ind.