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We will forever remember...

March 15, 1999




Remembering March 15, 1999

This site was created in memory of the Amtrak Train Derailment in Bourbonnais, Illinois.



MARCH 15, 1999

Darkness engulfed the frozen landscape of the northern edge of Bourbonnais on the evening of Monday March 15, 1999, when the Amtrak train, the City of New Orleans, heading south from Chicago, collided at the McKnight Road railroad crossing with a flatbed truck loaded with 22 tons of steel.


The City of New Orleans, a train of two locomotives, one baggage car, 11 passenger cars and two sleeper cars, was carrying 198 passengers, an Amtrak crew of 17, two off-duty Amtrak employees and two off-duty Illinois Central Railroad employees, when it struck the loaded flatbed at 9:48 p.m. The tragic accident resulted in the deaths of 11 passengers and many serious injuries to other passengers and train personnel.


The first emergency response was a Bourbonnais Police Officer and a contingent of workers from the adjacent Birmingham Steel plant (now known as Nucor Steel).  Minutes later, members of the Bourbonnais Fire Protection District arrived.  The rescuers heroically entered the burning and twisted sleeper car, the locomotives and five derailed passenger cars to rescue passengers and the train’s engineer.


In the ensuing moments after the crash, 146 personnel from seven police agencies, 16 fire department and 47 emergency service agencies responded in accordance with the design of the Kankakee County Disaster Plan.  Help came from as far as 100 miles away.


Later that night, Amtrak officials arrived, setting up headquarters in the Hampton Inn.  Uninjured passengers, and families of the injured and deceased passengers, were cared for at the Holiday Inn Express, Lee’s Inn and Fairfield Inn.


Injured passengers were triaged at the nearby Blain’s Farm & Fleet store and the Bourbonnais Upper Grade School.  They were quickly transported to either Riverside Medical Center or Provena St. Mary’s Hospital for treatment.  The Red Cross and Salvation Army provided services to those in need and assistance to the rescue workers.


The Illinois Emergency Management Agency also provided aid.  Governor George Ryan visited the scene the following day to lend whatever support possible to the emergency workers.


Despite the heroic efforts of these tireless rescuers, 11 passengers died.


The deceased, who will be remembered forever, are:


  • Helena Adkins, 42          Bremerton, Washington

  • Wendy Vant, 42              Bremerton, Washington

  • Leona Vant, 71               Bremerton, Washington

  • Vergil Vant, 76                Bremerton, Washington

  • Marie Munson, 64          Mount Prospect, Illinois

  • Keiichi Nomura, 20        Tokushima, Japan

  • Jessica Tickle, 11            Nesbit, Mississippi

  • June Lee Bonnin, 46      Nesbit, Mississippi

  • Rainey Lipscomb, 10      Lake Cormorant, Mississippi

  • Lacey Lipscomb, 8          Lake Cormorant, Mississippi

  • Sheena Dowe, 22           Jackson, Mississippi


The entire River Valley came together, giving of themselves and their possessions to help those they did not even know.  Through this tragedy, the heroism and selflessness shown by the rescue efforts reaffirmed our belief in the innate goodness of humanity and the blessing of the wonderful people who live in our community.


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