By Bob Uphues
Riverside police charged a man who drove a work van through downed railroad gates and into four other vehicles on Longcommon Road in Riverside during the evening rush hour on June 22 with driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
No one was seriously injured in the crash, which occurred north of the downtown grade crossing, though a 54-year-old Chicago woman was taken to MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn for treatment of what police termed "non-life threatening injuries."
According to police, the driver of the van, who was identified as Joshua A. Digweed, 30, of Brookfield, was "staggering around in a stupor" outside his vehicle when police arrived on the scene.
Digweed reportedly told police that his van had mechanical problems that caused it to lunge forward, although a video taken by someone on the train platform appeared to show the van drive steadily through the downed gates and the grade crossing.
The video shows that Digweed stopped in front of the downed gate and waited until a westbound Metra cleared the grade crossing. The gates stayed down, however, as an eastbound train approached. The van drove through the downed gate and cleared the crossing just seconds before the eastbound train passed through the intersection.
"This man was fortunate he wasn't killed or seriously injured," said Police Chief Thomas Weitzel in a press release.
Digweed reportedly refused chemical testing and was uncooperative with police. Weitzel stated that Digweed admitted to smoking cannabis and taking prescription drugs before driving.
"Make no mistake – a fatal vehicle/train accident was narrowly avoided," Weitzel said.
The downtown train crossing was closed for about 20 minutes as police investigated the incident and cleared the scene.
Digweed was arrested in February 2016 by Brookfield police. At that time he was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, possession and delivery of cannabis and unlawful possession of a firearm.
Police reported recovering a fully loaded assault-type rifle in Digweed's residence, which was about a block away from an elementary school.