Articles Posted in Train Accidents

This past week, Chicago temperatures plummeted into record-breaking below freezing temperatures, dubbing the city with the nickname “Chiberia.” However, despite the “polar vortex” creating winter weather conditions foreign even to us in Chicago, many still needed to get on with their daily lives and get to their places of employment. Despite these below-freezing conditions, it is imperative that Chicago transportation companies, such as Metra and the CTA, take precaution to protect their paying customers from foreseeable dangers.

All week we heard on local media outlets from meteorologists and weather experts on the dangers and hazards this weather can bring. Because it was known how dangerous these conditions can be, transportation providers should plan ahead to make the commute as safe as possible. This can mean taking extra precautions and going above and beyond normal procedure, since they are aware of how dangerous the weather is. Despite changes in weather, commuters still deserve to feel safe in their travels to and from the downtown area.

However, according to Crain’s Chicago, 14 Metra passengers were injured when their train crashed at LaSalle Street Station as it arrived in Chicago. The train hit a bumping post as it pulled into the station, and six passengers were taken to a local hospital to be treated for minor injuries.

This past week we have heard weather experts repeatedly warn us about the extreme cold temperatures the “polar vortex” brought to Chicago. At times it became so cold, that only briefly being outside could cause frostbite and other serious injuries, and Chicago earned itself the name “Chiberia,” as seen trending on Twitter and other popular social media sites. ABC News Chicago saw a record low temperature of negative 16 degrees Fahrenheit, with wind chills up to negative 48 degrees, and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn issued a declaration of a state disaster due to the temperatures Illinois had not experienced in over two decades.

The Chicago Tribune explains the meteorological term into plain English. The polar vortex is a high altitude, cold low pressure area that normally spins around the North Pole during winter months and plays a major role in determining how cold areas south of it will get. However, recently that polar vortex was weakened and interrupted, as if the spinning lost some momentum. This made the cold air spill from its normal location to cause more southern locations experience extreme temperatures. ABC News explained that these temperatures caused such cold and dark conditions that salt was ineffective on roads and diesel fuel in trucks turned to gel.

However, even though weather experts repeatedly warned the public about the dangers of the near-arctic weather conditions we faced, one transportation company, Amtrak caused passengers to do just the opposite of the warnings. ABC News reported that Amtrak negligently made their customers aboard three trains outside of Chicago be exposed to the below freezing temperatures. 90 miles outside of Chicago in Mendota, the trains hit a 12-foot snow drift, paralyzing the engines. The passengers were forced to spend the night on the trains without heat, in the below freezing cold conditions.

Those who live in and around the City of Chicago understand that serious injuries or death can occur to both motorists and pedestrians as a result of CTA or Metra accidents. According to Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis, 156 non-employee fatalities occurred between 2001 – 2010. These statistics show that 15 people were killed annually.

According to NBC Chicago, on December 20th, a Metra train collided with a vehicle in the northwest Chicago suburb of Des Plaines. Police reported that the driver of the motor vehicle mistakenly turned onto the tracks in front of the approaching Metra train. The three people inside the car were injured, and no one aboard the Metra suffered any injuries. Earlier in the same day, another Chicago Metra train on the same line was involved in an accident as well. In the Chicago northwest suburb of Buffalo Grove, a train struck a person in what authorities are concluding was a suicide attempt. Then, a third incident occurred on the Metra in the Chicago west suburb of Glen Ellyn. A pedestrian was struck by a Metra train while crossing Main Street in Glen Ellyn. The victim was severely injured as a result of the train collision. Several witnesses reported that the man walked around the crossing gates.

Metra uses the Operation Lifesaver program to promote the safety and wellbeing of its commuters and of the pedestrians and motorists by the tracks. This program advises individuals to never walk on tracks and to only use the designated crossings. This is because by the time a train engineer sees someone walking on the tracks, they cannot stop the high-speed train in time to avoid a collision. An average freight train travels at 55 mph, and it takes such a train more than a mile’s length to come to a stop. Make sure to stay alert around tracks by not texting or using headphones, which can cause you to become distracted and not notice an oncoming train. A train moves faster than pedestrians think, which is why they are difficult to avoid.

Chicago is unfortunately not alone in public transportation train crashes. As of late, other major metropolitan cities have also been involved in train crashes. On Sunday, December 1st, a Metro train in New York was also in an accident. Unlike Chicago’s “ghost train,” the Metro-North train derailed, causing a fatal accident. According to CNN U.S., the train derailed, injured 67, and killed four people.

However, whereas the Chicago blue line train had no engineer on board, earning it the title of “ghost train,” there was engineer on board the Metro-North. The engineer had been nodding off and “caught himself too late” before the train derailed and caused an accident.

Similarly to how safety mechanisms initiate on the Chicago blue line crash, this Metro-North train also should have sounded a warning before slowing the train in an incident where an engineer was unresponsive. The same article by CNN continued to describe how it is unclear whether these mechanisms were even activated before the crash occurred. Here too, the engineer’s car was equipped with a “dead man pedal” that needed constant downward pressure to keep the train moving. If this pressure ceases, a whistle should sound and the train should come to an immediate stop. It is unclear whether this “dead man pedal” was activated at the time the engineer nodded off at the controls. The National Transportation Board said it is possible that “positive train control” could have prevented the derailment.

Many Chicago commuters rely on the Metra train to get to and from the greater Chicago area suburbs to the downtown for work. As a result of our large transportation network, drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and motorcyclists frequently navigate through Metra train crossings. Although warning lights and gates are in place to prevent collisions, a number of Chicago area drivers are killed each year at train crossing. Due to the size and speed of commuter trains, Metra accidents can not only result in serious injuries, or even fatalities, but also impact others in their commute to and from the city. Accidents result in lengthy train delays and cancellations, due to post-accident safety inspections and clean-up.

According to NBC Chicago, a driver was killed on November 23, 2013 when a Metra train struck his car. Train number 2612 was on the Milwaukee District-North Line traveling to Fox Lake. The accident occurred in the city of Lake Forest at approximately 1:30 p.m. The train hit the car on the tracks near Old Mill Road, west of Illinois Route 43. Upon impact, the car was pushed about 100 yards south along the tracks. The driver of the car was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

Police gathered information from witnesses. According to witnesses, the sedan was driving eastbound toward the tracks on Old Mill Road at the time that the warning lights and bells went off and the crossing gate lowered. The sedan attempted to drive around the gate and continue eastbound. Following the accident, train number 2612, the train involved in the incident, and outbound train number 2607, both mid-way through their route with passengers on board, were stopped on the tracks for several hours. Outbound trains had to turn around and return to the station.

This past fall, the Chicago Transit Authority (also commonly known as the CTA), experienced a bizarre incident, caused by employee negligence, on the blue line, which many are now labeling as the “ghost train.” According to the Chicago Tribune, this driver-less train breached multiple safeguards and traveled for almost a full mile before colliding with another blue line train on the morning of September 30th.

According to reports, this was unlike any incident seen previously by city rail workers. The train continued through several stops and curves at the Forest Park station and even passed by two track switches, either which should have stopped the train from continuing. The train even continued uphill near the Eisenhower Expressway and then actually accelerated to 20 mph before ramming into a stopped train picking up passengers at the Harlem stop.

This strange accident, and act of negligence, sent over 30 individuals to local hospitals to be treated for injuries. The impact at Harlem occurred with 40 people on board the stopped train. Due to such injuries and a strange occurrence of events, authorities such as the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Joint Terrorism Task Force became involved in investigation.

Investigations are underway as to what led two CTA blue line trains to crash into each other earlier this morning. The transit accident occurred in the Forest Park neighborhood shortly before eight o’clock this morning. The accident involved one train that was in operation and one train that was out of service and which had been parked for repairs. At this point it appears that somehow the out of service train rolled out of the station and collided directly with the train that was in operation, and which had about forty passengers onboard.

Part of the reason for all the confusion is that there are certain procedures and safety measures in place to assure that nothing like this happens. The train had to have somehow passed through two stopping points/switches for the accident to occur. This early in the investigation, it is unclear whether the switches malfunctioned or if there may have been foul play involved. Investigators did state for the record that there was no evidence of broken windows, pried open doors or other vandalism at this time. In addition to the safety switches and the locks in place to keep a train from moving when parked, there is an alarm that goes off when the train is traveling too fast and if the operator does not reduce speed in two seconds from the alarm beginning to sound, the system is supposed to automatically brake.

However, since so many safety precautions appear to have failed simultaneously, the investigation will also include a look into if the accident may have related to human error. While it is believed that the train was entirely empty, investigators will not yet rule out the possibility that there could have been someone on some part of the four-car train when the accident occurred. Unlike on airplanes, CTA trains do not have a recording device (similar to a “black box”), so there is no recording of what was happening on the empty train at the time of the accident, which makes the investigation more difficult since there are also no eyewitnesses to the accident known at the current time.

A Chicago pedestrian died earlier this evening after they were struck by an Amtrak train that was traveling through the Old Irving Park neighborhood. The train was outbound from Chicago heading towards Milwaukee and was traveling close to eighty miles an hour at the time the train struck a pedestrian that was attempting to cross the railroad tracks. The victim became pinned underneath the train and the Chicago Fire Department was called to the scene but the person struck by the train had too severe of personal injuries and did not survive the hit.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the investigation of the incident was turned over to Chicago Metra police and the investigation is still underway at this time. The next outbound train scheduled to leave from downtown Chicago was delayed following this tragic train accident. None of the over 2000 passengers or crew that were traveling on the outbound train towards Milwaukee suffered any personal injuries.

This is a sad reminder of how dangerous it is to try to cross train tracks. at any time, in an area other than a crossing area Many people think they can get across the tracks quickly or that when they are trying to cross the tracks, it is a time they know that there will be no train coming, however this is often not the case. Oftentimes, it is difficult to see an oncoming train until right before it is near to the spot you are in and then it may be coming too fast to avoid the train. Also, trains often get delayed and may pass a particular area at a time that is different than when it usually goes by that particular area.

The horrific train accident that occurred in Spain on July 24th has resulted in at least eighty deaths at this time. The accident occurred when the eight-carriage train derailed and hit a wall as it came off the tracks, and became engulfed in flames. As of this morning, the driver of the train is under investigation and is in police custody at this time.

According to Reuters, there is video footage of the train crash, which shows the train derailing and slamming into the concrete wall where it left the tracks. The train is also shown jack knifing and the engine flipping over. The train hit the wall so hard and so fast that it caused one of the carriages to fly high into the air and over a large concrete barrier. At this time it appears that the driver was speeding well over the highest allowable speed for the train, and that his excessive speed was likely at least part of the reason for the fatal accident. The train was reportedly traveling at around 120 miles per hour at the time of the crash, which was over double the allowable high speed limit for that particular curve on the track. While this appears to be a cause of the accident, Spanish police have not yet formally arrested the driver in connection with the accident. In addition to why the driver was traveling at such high speeds, police and investigators are trying to determine why certain mechanical safety devices did not stop the train from being able to go so fast. While more about this accident will likely emerge over the next few weeks and continue to emerge over time, it does appear that the excessive speed was the cause of the derailment as well as the reason the accident was so severe.

The driver was staying at a local hospital under police watch, however it is not currently known how severe his personal injuries may be. The driver was not a new driver and had actually been a train driver for thirty years.

On early Saturday morning in Quebec there was a train parked near the town of Lac-Megantic. For reasons that were initially unclear, the Montreal Maine & Atlantic (MMA) Railway train became dislodged and ran out of control toward the town. Making matters worse, the train was hauling crude oil at the time–72 cars worth. The train eventually derailed in the center of town, causing the crude oil to explode in a ball of flames.

Authorities are still combing through the devastation, but the damage is severe. According to a report in yesterday’s Leader-Post the official death toll in the disaster has risen to twenty people. But that may be just the beginning. At least another thirty individuals are missing. As reported by DW News, the local police inspector noted that those missing were “most probably dead in this tragedy.”

This is obviously a tragic disaster of immense proportions.

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