Police To Review Video of Metra Crash; Lamplighter's Remembers 'Bogie'
Palatine Police will review video of the Metra train crash next week that killed Michael Levgard.
A makeshift memorial of flowers, a candle and an unopened beer sit close to the stool once regularly occupied by Michael "Bogie" Levgard at Lamplighter Inn in downtown Palatine.
Levgard, 64, died Tuesday when his 1999 green Mercury Sable was hit by a passing Metra train. Questions regarding Levgard's death and how the incident that took his life unfolded persist. Palatine police plan to review video from the Metra train that hit Levgard's vehicle next week.
Lamplighter regulars described "Bogie" as the kind of guy everyone knew. One aquaintance said "Bogie" was Palatine's version of Norm from Cheers.
A well-read retired mailman who completed the newspaper crossword puzzle in pen almost every day, he was a formidable opponent when playing the Buzztime trivia game at the bar.
"He didn't have a mean bone in his body," said Scott Lucier, a friend and neighbor of Levgard's. "He was the nicest guy you'd ever want to meet."
The crash happened at 7:34 a.m. as Levgard headed north on Brockway Street. A Metra train was stopped at the Palatine station and an inbound express train traveling between 50 mph and 75 mph was coming through town at the same time on another track.
Palatine police said railroad officials told them that the crossing at Brockway Street operated correctly and that the gates were down.
However, Jill Gilman Foelker, a waitress and bartender at Lamplighter, 60 N. Bothwell, said she saw her friend die and believes the gates were up. Foelker was in the front dining room of Lamplighter which faces the tracks filling condiment holders on tables.
"I heard the horn and looked up and it was right there," Foelker said, pointing west toward the crossing. "I freaked out and screamed. I ran and told [a co-worker] that someone just got hit by the train."
The train dragged Levgard's car more than 1,000 feet, finally dumping it off the tracks near Palatine Road. Foelker said it was only then, when she saw the green hood of the car, that she realized who had been hit.
Foelker said she believed that the crossing gates were above the train at the time of impact and wondered whether the train sitting at the station caused the crossing to go up even for a moment. She said the timing of the Brockway Street crossing is not always in synch with two nearby crossings.
"It's really odd that the [crossing gates] at Smith and Plum Grove can be down and Brockway won't be," Foelker said. "That happens quite a bit."
Palatine Police Cmdr. Craig Lesselyoung said that so far police have no indication there was a problem with how the crossing functioned. However, the department's accident reconstructionists working on the case plan to review video of the crash with UP Northwest officials next week.
Levgard's friends at Lamplighter say it would have been out of character for him to try and drive around crossing gates. They describe him as smart and deliberate, not fast and reckless.
"He was a turtle, I never saw Bogie move fast," Foelker said.
"He's not the kind of guy that would take that risk," said Kelly Emmons, a friend of Levgard's. "He was never in a hurry. He was a laid-back kind of guy."
One possibility is that Levgard saw the train sitting at the station, assumed the crossing gates were down for that reason, and figured it was safe to go.
"It would give me some closure to know exactly what happened," Emmons said.