CHICAGO — Officials are at a loss to explain a sudden surge in the number of people killed by trains in the Chicago-area. Six people have died in the last two weeks alone.
A Metra spokesperson said there have been 21 fatalities involving the commuter rail agency’s trains so far this year, compared with 18 in all of last year. Metra suspects suicide in 12 of this year’s deaths, including recent incidents in Evanston, Des Plaines and Elgin. An ultimate determination on the cause of death is left to the local medical examiner or coroner.
Railroad officials said the number of deaths involving trains fluctuates from year-to-year in an unpredictable manner. In 2017, there were 29 fatalities involving Metra trains with 21 suspected as suicide.
In recent years, Metra has stepped up its efforts to reach people who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts. Signs are posted at all Metra stations that include the phone number for a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline.
“When someone dies on our tracks, it affects so many people – from the victim and their family to our engineers, conductors and first responders, to the customers who can be delayed on the train for up to three hours,” said Metra Board Chairman Norman Carlson in a 2017 press release. “This is a crisis in need of a long-term solution.”
Metra officials are also taking part in a suicide prevention symposium in October that brings together experts to discuss ways to combat the problem.
If you or someone you know are struggling with suicidal thoughts there is help available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). There are additional resources at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.