A stopped westbound train was struck by an eastbound train that was on the same track just before 8 a.m. Monday, CTA spokesperson Lambrini Lukidis said. Why they were on the same track is under investigation, but the CTA said no one was onboard or at the controls of the four-car train that was headed east.
"To the best of our knowledge, from what we know right now, there was no driver, there was no human being on that eastbound train," Forest Park Mayor Anthony T. Calderone said. "Forest Park police are treating this as a crime scene."
"So the million dollar question is how did this happen? There were initial reports that this was possibly a sabotage or the train was taken out of the yard. Earlier reports were that they saw somebody operating the train. We have not confirmed this," ATU local 308 President Robert Kelly said.
He calls the situation "baffling," and said the eastbound train was in the yard, scheduled to go in for repairs. Kelly said CTA trains are supposed to have a trip mechanism to keep trains from moving without someone on board.
"We don't know what led the train to start moving on the path it did. It should not have done so," CTA spokesperson Brian Steele said. There's no indication at this point that this was criminal activity, Steele said. There were no broken windows or pried open doors on the CTA train.
The CTA is investigating, and NTSB officials are also on the way.
"We have assigned CTA staff to look at every single aspect of what transpired here today. Obviously, this is an occurrence that should not happen," Steele said. "We have video not only from the platforms, but also from the rail cars themselves."
33 transported, all minor injuries
"I was waiting for my train. Time to go to school. I heard screaming, 'Stop the train, stop the train, slow down,'" Taylor Pettigrew, witness, said. Then she heard the crash. "It seemed like the train going toward Forest Park bumped back a little bit."
Several ambulances were called to the scene of the crash and at least 48 were injured. Thirty-three people were transported to 10 local hospitals, according to Calderone. Many others were treated at the station. The extent of their injuries isn't clear, but they are believed to be minor. Loyola Hospital received four patients, none of whom had life-threatening injuries.
"It shot forward. I was in the front seat, I don't know what happened," one woman said as she got into an ambulance at the scene. "It was very intense. It was real hard."
Emergency crews from several neighboring suburbs responded to the scene.
Service restored, but slow on Blue Line
Blue Line service was suspended between Austin and Des Plaines at the end of the line in Forest Park while officials cleared the scene. Train service was restored around 9:30 a.m., but were moving slowly on a single track around the accident site. Delays were expected. Also, shuttles were in place from Kedzie to Forest Park Avenue to help with the rush hour commute. Some commuters were choosing to use the Green Line as an alternative, and Metra is honoring CTA fare cards.
Vehicular traffic on the Eisenhower Expressway was also backed up, which led to delays across many Chicago roadways during the rush.