Police Tuesday morning were still hunting for the driver of an SUV that slammed into a Berwyn train platform last Friday, killing a Riverside woman who worked for the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe railroad.
The crash occurred at approximately 5:45 a.m. on March 3, shortly after Kathleen Talmage, 58, arrived for work at the train platform located at 7135 W. Windsor Ave., a half block east of Harlem Avenue. Talmage was a long-time Riverside resident.
According to one eyewitness account, the 2004 Range Rover sped past him westbound down Windsor Avenue, flew up an earth berm on the station’s east side and rammed through a brick wall without the driver ever applying his brakes.
“I was on my way to work when I saw him coming westbound,” said a man named Phil, who lives in the 7100 block of Windsor Avenue. He declined to give his last name.
“It’s hard to guess just how fast he was going, but it was over 45, 50 miles per hour. He just Dukes of Hazzard-ed it over the berm and into the wall.”
Talmage, whose work keys were still in the station door, was critically injured by the crash. Berwyn emergency personnel transported Talmage to nearby MacNeal Hospital, where she was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.
The driver, who apparently was not seriously injured, fled from the scene before police arrived.
The eyewitness said he saw the driver, whom he described as white or possibly Hispanic about 5 foot, 8 inches tall, with an average build and wearing a beige sweater, stagger out of the SUV and sit down on the rubble next to the station.
“His reaction was like ‘Oh my God, what did I just do?,” Phil said.
Phil said he called 911 to report the crash, adding that the man appeared as if he was waiting for emergency personnel to arrive.
“I drove by and slowed down to see if there was anyone else in the SUV,” said Phil, adding that he did not see anyone in the station. “Then I drove off.”
The driver, however, did not wait for police to arrive. Instead, he left.
Riverside Police received a call from Berwyn at approximately 6:05 a.m., reporting that the Range Rover was registered to a Riverside man who lived on East Quincy Street.
Riverside police went to that address and attempted to contact the owner. Police waited there for almost two hours, according to police records, but the car’s owner never arrived.
At press time, police have not been able to determine whether the owner of the SUV was driving the vehicle at the time of the crash. Berwyn police did recover blood inside the vehicle, however, and Berwyn Police Chief William Kushner said that the department was awaiting the results of forensic tests currently being conducted. Once the test results are known, Kushner said, the department may seek to issue a warrant for the arrest of the vehicle’s owner.
Kushner said his department has not been in touch with the vehicle’s owner, and is not exactly sure of his whereabouts, other than to say, “we know he hasn’t left the country.”
Kushner said he will hold a press conference once an arrest warrant is issued.
Talmage had worked for the BNSF for 40 years and was planning on retiring soon, said her husband Juan Talancon, who works for the Canadian National railway. The couple met when Talancon was Talmage’s supervisor at the BNSF. They were married for 15 years.
According to Talancon, his wife loved to travel and attend the theater.
“Disney World was her favorite destination place,” Talancon said. “She was the social person in our group. She was the one who kept everything together.”
Talmage is survived by her daughter from a previous marriage, Lisa, and a granddaughter, Brittany. She is also survived by Talancon’s son from a previous marriage, Christopher.
A funeral Mass for Talmage was held yesterday at St. Mary Church in Riverside.