Officials hope for safety improvements at crossing where man hit train

CREATED Jun 27, 2014

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PLEASANT PRAIRIE - A car was mangled underneath a train in Pleasant Prairie and somehow the driver survived. 

The crash happened at a crossing that has authorities concerned. They want safety improvements at that crossing.
At village hall, the administrator's heart goes out to the driver who slammed into that train. The accident happened at the worst of times for the family.
47-year-old Juan Matias was at the wheel of a Toyota, headed to work around midnight, when he approached a railroad crossing with no flashing lights or gates. A train was stopped and a black tanker car was on the crossing.
"It does get incredibly dark in that area and especially lately with the fog coming in at night, it would've been impossible to see especially if it was a black train," said Matias' daughter Alex Harris-Ulloa.
The problem outside EMCO Chemical is one that village officials have been trying to correct for years. Village administrator Michael Pollocoff shot off his first letter to the state's rail commissioner in 1993, then sent another in 2011 asking for improvements. Both requests were denied.
"Our hope's for him and a good recovery and I really hope if anything comes out of this positive, is to get that crossing gate put up," said Pollocoff.
But for Matias, it's too late. He remains hospitalized with a fractured hip and numerous stitches.
"We're very fortunate that he survived and he's in stable condition, but it's really hard seeing him the way he is," said Harris-Ulloa.
It's an especially difficult time for the family. Matias' mother passed away this year and his wife has lupus. In addition, he was just one week away from getting health insurance.
"And this has just added more onto our grief. It's just one blow right after another," said Harris-Ulloa.
The state's rail commissioner has agreed to reconsider Pleasant Prairie's request for better warning signs at the crossing on 88th Avenue.