CHICAGO -- A freight train conductor boarding a locomotive in a South Side railyard was killed early Wednesday when an oncoming train apparently snared her backpack and pulled her to the ground, Chicago police said.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Teresa R. Smith, 42, of Vermilion, Ohio, a train conductor for CSX Transportation, was boarding the train on railroad property at the 7500 block of South Chicago Avenue about 1 a.m. when she was brushed by a train going northbound on the adjacent track.

The passing train caught a backpack Smith was wearing and pulled her off the train, said Chicago police officer JoAnn Taylor, adding that Smith sustained cuts to her right hand, fractures to her left leg and cuts to her head. An exact cause of her death has yet to be determined.

"This is an unusual circumstance. Our crews are very aware of the movement of the trains around them," said Gary Wollenhaupt, a spokesman for CSX Transportation, based in Jacksonville, Fla.

Wollenhaupt declined to confirm whether the incoming train snared Smith's backpack and caused her death.

Smith was pronounced dead at 2:03 a.m. at Cook County Hospital, police said. An autopsy will be conducted today by the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.

She had a 10-year-old son and a 15-year-old daughter and was married.

"She was a great person," said Joe Adkins, Smith's brother, also of Vermilion.

She had just stayed overnight in Chicago and was getting on a locomotive to return to Willard, Ohio, Wollenhaupt said. The company's regional headquarters is in Calumet City and has about 500 employees.

Smith had been a train conductor for 14 months and was working a 12-hour shift when the accident occurred, Wollenhaupt said.

CSX Transportation, one of the country's largest freight train services, operates freight trains in 23 states. Chicago is a major interchange point, Wollenhaupt said.

The Chicago Police Department and CSX Transportation officials said the accident is under investigation. The probe would have to be overseen by the Federal Railroad Administration because it occurred on the train tracks, said officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Calumet City.

The FRA couldn't be reached for comment.

Funeral services for Smith will be on Monday at the Riddle Funeral Home in Vermilion, her brother said.

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January 12, 2001

2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers