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Memorial For Rail Crash Dead

Memorial services were held Sunday to remember those who died or were injured when a Chicago-to-New Orleans Amtrak train crashed into a truck loaded with steel at a railroad crossing last Monday night. Eleven people died.

Bourbonnais residents who helped in the rescue effort also were remembered.

The Rev. Dan Boone of the College Church of the Nazarene said townspeople are sharing the sorrow and loss of the victims' families. People in this small town are praying for those who lost loved ones in last week's deadly train crash, he said.

On Saturday, investigators interviewed newly identified witnesses to the deadly Amtrak train crash.

Meanwhile, a newspaper reported that the driver of the truck struck by the train had been involved in at least 17 earlier traffic incidents.

The coroner's office has released a list identifying the 11 victims of the crash.

Phil Frame, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said "a handful" of new witnesses had come forward and the NTSB had set up a three-person team to interview them and verify their accounts.

Carmen Velez of CBS News Affiliate WBBM-TV in Chicago reports on a witness who says he saw the truck try to steer around the crossing gates as the train approached.

The witness, whose native language is Spanish, refused to appear on camera but told Velez that he was upset that some officials seemed to doubt his account.

First reports of the witness' statement said the gates were down, but later reports said there was some confusion, possibly becaue of translation. While he does speak some English, the witness told Velez he had asked for a translator because of the importance of his statement.

"There is no question about it, the gates were down," the reporter quoted the witness as saying, adding that the witness said he "saw the truck run around the gate."

Frame said not all of the new witnesses were motorists, but would not say who the witnesses were or what they were doing in the area. The crossing is near a dead end, he said, but there are nearby businesses, including a steel mill.

Special Coverage

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Amtrak: Cars Cause Problems
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A Matter Of Life And Death
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Deadly Train Crashes
Tuesday's accident is one of many American rail disasters.

March 16, 1999

The Chicago Sun-Times has reported that Illinois state officials have uncovered at least 17 incidents involving John R. Stokes, the driver of the truck struck by the City of New Orleans train, including license suspensions, accidents that resulted in injuries and speeding violations.

Stokes, 58, has not been charged in the incident. His attorney could not be reached for comment.

Investigators are struggling to reconcile conflicting stories with physical evidence, CBS News Correspondent Bob Orr reports.

Investigators say tire tracks and broken crossing gates strongly suggest that Stokes attempted to beat the train to the crossing. They suspect he ignored the warning lights and tried to zig-zag around the crossing gates.

Stokes originally told invesigators that his rig was already in the crossing when the warning lights flashed and the crossing gates began to come down. Suddenly, he said, the passenger train was right on top of him and he had no chance to get out of the way.

The Chicago Tribune reported that under police questioning, Stokes made the remark, "It had to be the fast one." The newspaper cited an official involved in the investigation, and said the comment could play a key role in interpreting Stokes's state of mind just before he drove his truck onto the tracks.

The full investigation is expected to take 9 to 12 months.