Tinley Park teen gets scare before dodging train
By Casey Toner firstname.lastname@example.org November 4, 2012 3:18PM
Bill Anetsberger stands on the railroad crossing at 66th Court and Oak Forest Avenue in Tinley Park, IL on Thursday, November 1, 2012. He ran out of gas and his car got stuck on the railroad tracks on Wednesday, and almost got hit by a train. He escaped in the nick of time when another driver helped him push his car off the tracks. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 6, 2012 6:09AM
On a Halloween morning that William Anetsberger likely won’t ever forget, his jet-black 2006 Chevy Cavalier ran out of gas at the absolute worst moment.
The Tinley Park teenager was on the railroad tracks, in the path of an oncoming train at the crossing one block east of the Metra station off Oak Park Avenue in Tinley Park.
There wasn’t much time for decision-making.
“At first, the thought was flashing in my mind, ‘Should I save my life and get out of the car, or should I save my car?’ ” Anetsberger said.
Thanks to an unidentified stranger, all of the above happened. Now, Anetsberger and his family just want to know whom to thank for coming to the rescue.
Anetsberger, 17, was running way late that morning for school at Tinley Park High School, where he is a senior.
An overnight power outage at his house caused his alarm clock to reset. With no buzzer to wake him, he slept through his first two classes — history in the making, and minority studies.
Anetsberger finally woke up frazzled and called his mom, Lynda Anetsberger, who let the school know her son was going to be tardy.
Anetsberger hopped in his car — a birthday gift he received from his parents in August — and set off on his morning ride. He knew the car was running low on gas, but he planned to refill it after school because he was late.
When he hit the intersection of 66th Court and 173rd Street about 10:20 a.m., he got stuck by a freight train. Anetsberger waited about four minutes for it to pass and then made his move. He drove up the small incline in the road and made it onto the tracks ... and his car’s engine sputtered out.
The next thing he knew, the crossing gate had come down, the bell started to ring and he spotted a Metra train in the distance.
To the rescue
“I knew no matter what happened, I was going to jump out of the way of the train,” Anetsberger said of his plight.
But at that moment, he wanted to save his car. So he put the gearshift in neutral, scampered out of the driver’s seat, ran to the back of the car and began trying to push it.
Unfortunately, all of his 140 pounds didn’t provide the leverage or force to move the car off the tracks. It wouldn’t even budge.
Anetsberger said he tried enlisting help from the drivers behind him, but they just honked their horns at him and tried to wave him to move out of harm’s way.
All but one of the drivers, that is.
When all hope seemed to be lost, Anetsberger said, a man in a blue minivan, who had gray hair and appeared to be in his 40s, hopped out and helped him push.
The car gained momentum and rolled off the tracks.
“As soon as I got off the tracks, my car goes flying down the hill,” Anetsberger said. “I ran next to my car and then put the brake on.”
Saving the car
The next thing he knew, Anetsberger said, his car was at a standstill. The Metra train was passing behind him, and his good Samaritan was driving off.
“I wish I got to say ‘thank you’ to his face,” Anetsberger said. “All I got to do was yell ‘thank you’ at his window.”
Because his car was out of gas, Anetsberger called the Tinley Park police, who helped push it into a nearby empty lot.
Police confirmed they responded to a call at the train station that morning, but the officer who went to the scene was unavailable for comment.
Metra spokeswoman Meg Reile said the rail agency did not get a report on the incident but that it normally would not unless a train had struck Anetsberger’s car. About 10 cars a week get stuck on the tracks throughout the railway system, she said.
Once Anetsberger and his car were safe, he called his mother.
“He called me in a desperate voice and said, ‘Mom, I almost just died, get to the train station right away,’ ” Lynda Anetsberger said. “He said he almost died.”
She picked him up from the lot near downtown Tinley Park and dropped him off at school.
Anetsberger arrived about 10:45 a.m., having missed his third class of the day, symphonic band.
By that time, he had a story to tell.
“Lots of people said, ‘Oh, man, I would haven’t have come to school after that because my day would have been (awful) from there,’ ” Anetsberger said.