Articles Posted in Train Accidents

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As each day passes, experienced DuPage County Attorneys hear and learn about various types of vehicle accidents that occur throughout the State of Illinois. Although accidents at highway-railway intersections involving trains and automobiles are uncommon, they tend to be devastating when they occur.

The Facts & Figures

The Illinois Commerce Commission reported in 2012 that 89 accidents occurred at highway-railway intersections which resulted in 25 deaths and 34 injuries. Within the state of Illinois, there are over 7,300 miles of railroad tracks with more than 8,400 public crossings and just over 4,500 private crossings. Unfortunately, not all highway-railway crossings are made equal and some present more dangers than others.

Most highway-railway crossings have flashing lights and gates to inform motorists that trains are approaching, some only have reflective signs that advise motorists to use caution when crossing and few have no markings at all. (See the Illinois Railroad Safety Fact Sheet – 2013). Counties located within the Chicago area, including DuPage, are at the highest risk of experiencing a train-vehicle collision, due to the constant flow of daily trains and commuter traffic. Currently, DuPage County has 140 public highway-railway intersections and 18 private highway-railway intersections with a mix of the features identified above, but most have flashing lights and gates.
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We have all, for the most part, been there before. We have all been in a rush to get somewhere important. We have all been running late before. We have all been in that situation where you are trying to travel somewhere as quickly as you can, and every obstacle seems to be thrown your way. However, while inconveniences and running late are a huge annoyance and can greatly damper plans, in perspective, they are never worth risking your life for.

Far too often, people are reckless in common traffic situations due to being behind in time or being impatient. Too often though, the actions people take in order to save time and beat the clock put them in “life or death” situations. It is important people realize that a few saved minutes or being exactly on time is not worth the same value as being alive.

It is also far too often that people do not appreciate the risk of the situation or the recklessness of their actions. People too often feel invincible or that the scary stories they hear in the news are not likely to happen to them. The truth of the matter is though, that negligent and reckless driving, especially around large vehicles like semis, buses, and trains, puts a driver and passengers in serious danger.

According to a recent article by CBS, a southwest suburban train accident caused the death of two vehicle occupants. Four others were injured.
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We’ve frequently posted about the dangers of train accidents, but consider when trains are transporting more than just people. As you know, Chicago is a large hub of business. Not only do we have trucks transporting goods in and out of our city for business, but trains carry a significant amount of goods and materials for our state’s businesses and operations as well. Sometimes, the goods they carry are hazardous, and when there is an accident, this is no light matter.

To exemplify how serious train accidents can be, consider a recent report by ABC 7 Chicago. According to the report, an Illinois oil train that was heading for Chicago derailed on Thursday near Galena. Upon derailing, the tanks ruptured and caught fire. The fire was so significant that several of the cars remained on fire from the time of the accident through Friday. The fire, its fumes, and the toxicity of the flames posed harm to residents nearby, who needed to evacuate the area for their safety and livelihood. What is especially troubling about this incident and others like it is that the tanker was recently fitted with protective shields meant to prevent rupturing, yet as you can see from this accident, a serious fire resulted regardless.

The oil the train was transporting was “light crude,” meaning it is more explosive and toxic than other types of oil, and it can penetrate soil. Federal authorities have blocked and dammed off the nearby Galena and Mississippi rivers from the oozing crude to avoid spread of the toxicity and dangers and to avoid contamination of water. As crude oil production and transportation increases, water contamination is a major concern because oil trains often pass within a quarter-mile of protected wetlands, drinking water reservoirs, and major waterways like Lake Michigan.
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Through our blogs, we frequently remind our readers of the importance of safety around on the roads and around trains and railroad crossings. Train collisions are incredibly dangerous, especially due to the immense size of trains and the speeds at which they travel. For these reasons, train accidents can cause victims to suffer serious personal injuries or even death. Illinois is a major hub for interstate train travel and accidents are unfortunately all too common. Both passenger and freight trains pass through all of Illinois in high frequency, and for that reason, it is imperative that people practice safety and vigilance when around trains and crossings.

One recent accident reported by ABC highlights the importance of using caution and common sense around train crossings in order to protect and our passengers. According to the article, a mother and three of her children were en route to a Halloween parade in Vandalia, Illinois when the mother decided to drive her SUV around a set of railroad gates, putting the vehicle in the path of a freight train. As a result, she and the three children were kill and a fourth child suffered injury. Illinois State Police have confirmed from their investigation that that the crossing gates were down with lights flashing when the driver went around the gates. The train camera also recorded the accident, which supports that this driver was not stuck in traffic but volitionally went around the gates. The article explains that even though this is a congested area and that it was rainy, this driver still should have been able to see the train coming. The train engineer also tried to alert the driver by sounding the bell and whistle.
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Trains are a popular mode of transportation throughout the country, both locally and across states. Frequently, commuters and travelers use trains such as the CTA el, the Metra, and the Amtrak. However, it is not just people who rely on trains to get to their destinations, but companies use trains, like freight trains, to transport goods for their businesses. These long distance trains often carry cargo across over long distances across state lines. Due to its central location and being home to a number of large corporations, Illinois is a national hub for commercial train transportation. As a result, we frequently read about train accidents that occur and the devastation these incidents can bring to individuals and communities.

Because these trains are large vehicles with many cars that carry a large amount of people and/or a great deal of cargo at one time, when trains get in an accident, the collisions can be extremely serious. This was the case as reported by WREG News Channel 3. Two people were injured and two were killed when two trains collided head on near Highway67 in Arkansas. In addition to the human lives lost, families were evacuated from their homes nearby the accident due to toxic chemicals being spilled from one train. Currently the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the collision, but authorities currently have no idea how two trains could have collided head on.
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Chicago area public transportation has made the news quite often recently, unfortunately not in praise, but in notoriety. From train accidents during the polar vortex and to the derailing of the CTA blue line at the O’Hare stops, Chicagoans have voiced their concern about the string of accidents with both the Metra and CTA trains. Unfortunately, this week another accident occurred again on the CTA blue line rail.

According to an article by the Chicago Tribune, a Blue Line train derailed at the Cicero stop. The train was headed toward Forest Park, but derailed after it hit a truck tire that was on the tracks. One of the train car’s wheels derailed upon hitting the tire, which officials say came from a semi-truck on the Eisenhower expressway. Following the derailment, it took two hours to get the trains back onto the tracks. Six ambulances were called to the scene, but thankfully no one on the train suffered personal injuries.

One witness spoke on her account of situation. She said that as the train departed the Cicero stop a large spark flew into the air, and the first cars appeared to “jump off the track.” After the train derailed, passengers were provided with a step ladder to get back onto the platform, but many were nervous about crossing over third rail (the one that is electric). Emergency responders helped people off the ladder and onto the platform.

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Last week we informed our readers of the news of a Chicago Blue Line CTA train derailing at the O’Hare Airport stop. As investigations continue, news has unfolded regarding how this accident that injured over 30 people could have taken place. In efforts to keep our readers up to date on safety issues regarding Chicago public transportation, we wish to bring you the latest updates as well.

According to one news story by ABC, it appears that the driver of the Blue Line train that derailed and crashed onto the platform and escalator of the stop may have been fatigued and fallen asleep while operating the train. Reports have revealed that the operator of this train worked on a schedule called an “extra board.” This means that her shift and assignments change every day.

Prior to the accident, she had worked about 69 hours in the seven days prior, which is allegedly typical for the extra board shifts. However, CTA argues that the driver had worked only 55 hours in the previous seven days. They also say that she had been off for 18 hour before her shift during which this accident occurred. They also elaborate that the operator had requested additional hours, which were two shifts that added up to 13.6 hours, and due to a Union agreement, they were required to provide the operator with those requested additional hours. Investigations are still continuing.

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News of an accident on one of Chicago’s most traveled CTA lines shocked many and flooded local media outlets. According to an article by CBS News, a CTA blue line train derailed at the O’Hare Airport stop and traveled onto the platform and up the escalator. Security footage showed the train going much too fast for arriving at its stop and didn’t stop at the bumping post absorber at the end of the tracks. As a result, 32 people on board suffered personal injuries. Thankfully, no one suffered any life-threatening injuries.

What is extremely shocking about this incident is that it is unlike typical accidents we have heard of occurring on the CTA trains and buses. This wasn’t a mere stalling or malfunction. Instead, the train plowed off of the rails and onto the platform, crashing into the escalator. Not only does the CTA transport thousands of individuals per day, but this crash occurred at one of the busiest stops: an international airport.

This accident could have been much worse than it was, only due to timing. Had this same act of negligence occurred at a different time of the day, instead of 2:50 a.m., there easily could have been many more injuries. As one of the nation’s busiest airports, O’Hare is always packed with travelers making their way to and from the airport via the Blue Line train. Most of our lawyers have used this stop and know how congested it can be, especially during rush hours. Had this occurred at another time, the crash could have caused many more injuries, or even fatalities.

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Every day, thousands of people rely upon CTA, Metra and Amtrak trains in the Chicagoland area. As with most passenger train transportation systems, Illinois trains have numerous stops along the many train lines in our areas. However, as you know, trains are not the only way that people reach their destinations, and cars remain the most popular method of traveling. A dense mix of trains and cars though ultimately means their paths will often cross, particularly in Chicago suburban areas where many towns are serviced by multiple lines and are home to multiple railroad crossings.

As a result of heavy train traffic in and around Chicago, there is an increased risk for being involved in collisions with trains. Train accident injuries are often fatal or life-changing due to the size, weight, and speed of trains as compared to motor vehicles. It is almost miraculous when someone survives a train collision, as all odds and laws of physics are against them.

To get an idea of what it is like to survive a train accident, listen to what one Amtrak train crash survivor had to say in recent reports by WGN. Recently an Amtrak train and station wagon collided in the Chicago suburb of Riverside. A 67-year-old woman and her dog stopped in their car at the train crossing at Burlington. The driver realized she was a little too close to the crossing to be safe, and had a great deal of traffic stopped behind her. She backed up her car a little, but the train was headed fast at 71 miles per hour. It collided with the front of the station wagon, resulting in both the driver and her dog needing hospital care. Thankfully, both survived this accident.

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Our Chicago law firm empathizes with families who have lost loved ones in tragedies and accidents. It is especially unfortunate when families must grieve for the loss of a life that was cut all too short and not allowed to reach its full potential into adulthood. Our attorneys firmly believe in holding those who negligently caused injuries and death to young people accountable under the law for their wrongdoing.

Such an unfortunate accident recently occurred in the Chicagoland area. According to ABC 7, a seven-year-old girl and her father died after the vehicle in which she was riding was hit by a Metra train. Authorities located the young girl’s body in a nearby snowbank hours later. A Lake County medical examiner determined that the father and daughter both died from crash related injuries and that the father had a blood alcohol level above the legal limit. According to people who saw the crash, the girl’s father drove through the crossing gates.

Our lawyers were sad to read about this crash because it was most likely preventable. Had the father not chosen to operate his vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, both of these individuals could still be alive. Unfortunately, alcohol has been a factor not only in this crash but in thousands of other car accidents in Illinois, which could have been prevented. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, in 2012, nationally 10,322 people were killed due to drunk driving, and 345,000 were injured. When calculating these statistics, that means that every 51 minutes, someone is killed in a drunk driving accident, on average.