Crash Victims To Get $10 Million


Two railroad companies agreed to pay almost $10 million on September 21, 2000 to two women who were badly injured in a car collision with a train, an attorney said.

The companies admitted some responsibility for the crash, said the passenger’s attorney Timothy J. Cavanagh, a car accident attorney in Fresno.

He accused the companies of not taking proper precautions in response to a broken crossing gate.

The crash occurred on a snowy afternoon, where Schmale Road crosses the California Central Railroad near Carol Stream.

Police said the crossing gate had been broken off, one of several gates snapped that day in the storm.

Railroad officials initially denied knowledge that the gate had been broken previously, but tapes indicate police told a dispatching supervisor about the broken gate about an hour before the crash.

The two women were driving together south on Schmale Road, but authorities said the driving snow kept the driver, 40 year old Subhra Gangopadhyay from seeing the flashing crossing lights.

The car slid into the left front nose of the train engine and was smashed, throwing the two women from the car.

Gangopadhyay suffered severe head and abdominal injuries.

The passenger, 44 year old Hanifa Ajmeri, was put on life support with several fractures, including a shattered hip, a head injury and internal bleeding, and remained in critical care for three weeks.

She has had eight surgeries, still walks with a limp and a cane, no longer works testing circuit boards, and has become sedentary, her family said.

Her daughter-in-law, Alfina Ajmeri, said Hanifa Ajmeri was pleased the matter was being resolved. Hanifa doesn’t remember the accident, Alfina Ajmeri said, but still wonders why it happened to her.

Hanifa Ajmeri, a mother of four, got the majority of the money, $9.1 million, because her injuries were more severe, Cavanagh said.

The Pacific Railroad Company, which was operating the train, and the California Central Railroad, which provided dispatch services, should have instituted a “stop and flag” procedure, in which they would have a worker flag down drivers to stop them as the train passed until the gate was fixed the next day, Cavanagh said.

Railroad attorney Mike Connelly was not available for comment following the settlement in court. Previously, a spokesman said drivers have a responsibility to drive no faster than the conditions allow.

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