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PROBE OF TRAIN-BUS TRAGEDY TARGETS FAULTY TRAFFIC LIGHT

SHARE PROBE OF TRAIN-BUS TRAGEDY TARGETS FAULTY TRAFFIC LIGHT

Two more youngsters died Thursday from injuries suffered when a commuter train slammed into their school bus, bringing the toll to seven. Meanwhile, investigators tried to determine whether a malfunctioning traffic light led to the tragedy.

Stephanie Fulham, 15, and Susanna Guzman, 18, died late Thursday morning at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge. Both had been in critical condition since Wednesday's accident. Nine other students remained hospitalized, two in critical condition.Residents said the traffic light had long been a problem, but a state official said it had been inspected the day before the accident and seemed to work.

Sensors embedded in the tracks are supposed to change the crossing's traffic light to green as a train approaches to allow vehicles to clear the intersection, officials said. But some witnesses reported that the light was red, which could have prevented the bus carrying 35 students and the driver from moving into the heavy morning traffic.

"There are indications that there have been previous problems at that particular crossing," National Transportation Safety Board member John Goglia said Wednesday night.

The town's police chief, Robert Polston, saw Wednesday morning's crash because he was checking out recent reports of problems with the light. Village officials have said he would not comment because he was an eyewitness.

Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Richard Ador-jan said that the day before the accident, the department had a contractor inspect the light because local officials were concerned about possible malfunction.

"The concern was that it was not working properly," Adorjan said. "The system apparently was in working order." He declined to identify the contractor.

Residents said coordination between the gates and signals protecting the railroad crossing and the traffic light at the intersection just beyond it had long been poor.

"People have been saying something's going to happen because it's just not timed right," said Jim Homola, who was in his car behind the bus when the train hit.

"It was an accident waiting to happen," said Pat Ward, who works at a convenience store half a block from the crash scene.

She said the gates at the crash site closed on her husband's semi-trailer truck while he waited at the intersection just hours before Wednesday's fatal crash. She said he edged his rig into traffic to get off the tracks.