Woman, 96, rescued from car seconds before train hits

LOMBARD, ILL. (WLS) — A Metra train crashed into a car on the tracks in Lombard just seconds after the elderly driver was rescued by two good Samaritans and a police officer.

At about 8:30 p.m. Monday, the driver — 96-year-old Antoinette Lazzara — was stuck on the tracks at the railroad crossing at Grace and St. Charles Road. She was apparently disoriented and had trouble getting out of the car as the train approached.

“I saw the wheels turning, saw that the vehicle was stuck and was not able to move,” said Lombard police Officer Dan Herrera.

Herrera, along with Steve Spapperi, 19, and Justin Mueller, 24, and another man nearby, jumped out of their cars and ran to help get her out of the way. Spapperi and Mueller, both of Lombard, saw Lazzara lose control and drive onto the tracks.

“We started pulling her out of the car, and that’s when you see the train lights turning the corner and we were like, “yeah, we gotta get out of here,'” Spapperi said.

“I see a car parked all sideways, weird, on the train tracks. Inside the car,” Mueller said. “She didn’t quite know how she got there. She didn’t quite know what happened.”

Less than 10 seconds later, the train crashed into the woman’s car.

“We started walking her out and realized she couldn’t, with her cane and everything, walk on the rocks and stuff. We ended up having to carry her, carry her off,” Mueller said.

Chris Diaz, who was a passenger in Spapperi’s car captured the crash on cellphone video, which shows Lazzara’s white 2006 Lincoln Zephyr being pushed more than 50 feet by the westbound Metra train.

“I do believe, I was even praying on my way coming home from work, I do believe that God put us there right in time,” said Mueller. Lazzara was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, where she was under observation Tuesday evening. She was not injured in the incident.

Just 12 hours before the incident, Lazzara had been reported missing from her Burr Ridge home.

In a statement, Lombard Police Chief Roy Newton applauded the good Samaritans.

“It’s nice to know that we still have people that act when others are in need. I truly believe that they helped save a life this day. These are both Lombard residents and I’m very proud of our town. Lombard is a community that cares about its neighbors and that’s evident with this situation.”

Police are working to reconstruct the incident to determine how the vehicle became stuck on the tracks.

The Metra train was being operated by Union Pacific railroad employees. Union Pacific owns the tracks.

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