$36 Million Settlement for Victims of Rockford Train Derailment

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ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- The family of a Rockford woman killed in the 2009 train derailment has been awarded a combined settlement of $36 million dollars.

Canadian National was ordered to give Zoila Tellez's widower Jose Tellez $22.5 million dollars; $15.5 million for Zoila and $7 million dollars for Jose Tellez's individual injuries.

Their oldest daughter Adriana Tellez was pregnant at the time and lost her baby in the accident. She was separately awarded nearly $13.7 million dollars for her injuries and the loss of her baby.

If you remember, a Canadian National Train derailed and exploded on Mulford near Sandy Hollow in June 2009.

The lawsuit claimed negligence against Canadian National. It says the train tracks were washed out and about 20 minutes before the derailment, Winnebago County called Canadian National to alert them, however they did not stop or slow down, instead they sped up.

The National Transportation safety board is still investigating the derailment.

Canadian National released this statement, "The Tellez family has endured a terrible tragedy and CN wishes to express again its sincerest regrets and deepest sympathies to the entire Tellez family. No amount of money can replace the family's losses."

The Tellez family put out this statement, "We hope the settlement and verdict send a message to the railroads that what happened to our beloved Zoila, Jose and Adriana could have and should have been avoided. We are thankful that the legal process is over but are still scared and devastated by the tragedy. We truly appreciate the privacy the media has afforded us as our family continues to heal."

Release from Corboy and Demetrio:

Corboy & Demetrio Secures $22.5 Million Settlement for Victim of Rockford Train Derailment

Lawsuit Claimed Negligence against Railroad in Fiery Derailment and Explosion

The husband of a Rockford woman who died in a fiery train derailment in 2009 has settled his lawsuit against three railroad companies for $22.5 million, according to his lawyers at the Chicago law firm of Corboy & Demetrio.

Jose Tellez, 40, whose wife, Zoila Tellez, 44, died as she ran on fire from their car, was represented by Robert J. Bingle and Philip Harnett Corboy, Jr., partners at the plaintiff’s personal injury firm. Mr. Tellez was also badly burned in the explosion as he tried to flee for safety.

“This was a tragedy that did not have to occur. There were a series of missteps by the railroad that culminated with this train going over a washout,” Robert J. Bingle said. “We are delighted that we could resolve this case for the family. Nothing will ever replace their wonderful wife and mother but this settlement provides them some sense of justice,” he added.

Tellez was in his car with his wife Zoila and their daughter on June 19, 2009, in Rockford, when a Canadian National Railway Company (CNRC) train, with 114 cars, including 74 tankers filled with ethanol, derailed. The train was traveling from Freeport, Illinois, to Chicago.

The Tellez family was waiting for the train to pass when 18 cars containing two million gallons of ethanol derailed at the washout, located a few yards west of the intersection, causing an explosion and massive fire ball, which engulfed the Tellez’ car, the lawsuit alleges.

The complaint was filed against CNRC alleging that it was negligent in the operation, maintenance and supervision of the CNRC train and negligent in the maintenance and inspection of the CNRC railroad track. Illinois Central Railroad Company and Chicago, Central & Pacific Railroad Company, both subsidiaries of CNRC, were also named in the suit as operators of the train and track where the derailment occurred.

Approximately 20 minutes before the train derailed, the Winnebago County (Rockford) 911 center phoned CNRC at its headquarters in Montreal, Canada, and relayed to a representative there that a portion of the railroad track near the scene of the derailment was washed out, according to court documents. Pretrial discovery also produced documents and witness testimony that indicated that the engineer of the soon-to-be derailed train had noticed water conditions on the track minutes away from the derailment and instead of slowing down, he actually sped up.

Philip Harnett Corboy, Jr. said, “Proper communication between and amongst railroads like these in the Canadian National Railway system is a necessity, not a luxury. Railroads carrying hazardous cargo that travel through crowded residential areas like Chicago and Rockford need to be extra cautious about their cargo and any dangers ahead. The railroads dropped the ball in this instance and a solid, loving family was literally- and figuratively- blown up. I hope by this settlement the CNR and other like-sized railroads treat their communications systems with the utmost of importance.”

Besides her husband, Zoila Tellez is survived by daughters Adriana, (19), Lisette (17), Cristal (14) and Elvira (11).

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