Unmanned CTA train collides with another at Harlem, 33 hurt - FOX 10 News | myfoxphoenix.com

Officials: Moving train in Blue Line crash had no driver

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

At least 33 people suffered minor injuries after two CTA Blue Line trains collided at the Harlem station Monday.

For the latest information on Blue Line service following Monday's incident: TransitChicago.com

The Blue Line train full of passengers was stopped at the Harlem station just before 8 a.m. , when it was struck by an eastbound Blue Line train on the same track, a CTA spokeswoman said. She also said it is unclear why the two trains were on the same track.

The train that hit the standing train had been marked "out of service," said CTA spokesman Brian Steele, who said the collision occurred at a "pretty slow speed."

Video footage shows that nobody was driving the 4-car Chicago Transit Authority train as it rumbled the wrong way toward the train parked at the Harlem Avenue station. But investigators were trying to determine if it somehow started moving itself or if someone sent it on its way, intentionally or otherwise.

"If it wasn't a goof or there is someone not telling us something that creates a big problem because if one train can start moving without anybody doing anything than it can happen to another train," said Amalgamated Transit Union President Robert Kelly.

Kelly said he had never heard of a train simply starting to roll down the tracks. Not only that, but he said to start a train somebody would not only have to have a special key, but would have to know how to use it.

The conductor of the parked train "saw the moving train coming at him with nobody in the front car," Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone said, relating a conversation he had with a first responder who treated the conductor.

A CTA spokeswoman said the 33 people injured during the crash were on board the westbound train stopped at Harlem. Four people were taken with non-life threatening injuries to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, one person was taken in "stable" condition to West Suburban Medical Center, four people were taken with non-life threatening injuries to Gottlieb Hospital in Melrose Park and one person was taken in "very good" condition to Rush University Medical Center.

Forest Park Village Manager Tim Gillian told FOX 32 News Monday morning that 48 people were taken to area hospitals in stable to good condition. All patients were classified as either yellow or green, with minor injuries. The mayor's office confirmed just before 11:30 a.m. that the number of injured was, in fact, 33.

"It wasn't going that fast," Moni Wright, said. "It just kind of pushed its way into it like an accordion."

The 42-year-old saw the collision from her home across the street from the site.

"I thought it was thunder," Wright said. "I heard this loud boom at about a quarter to 8. It smelled like smoke. I thought I left a cigarette burning, or the candy factory is right here, so I'm used to smoke."

Authorities originally called an EMS Plan 3, but that was upgraded to a 4th alarm just after 8:30 a.m. Monday. That means all ambulances are instructed to drop their patients off at the hospital and return to the scene immediately to assist at the scene.

Calderone also said as of 9:30 that everyone was off the trains involved in the crash. He said 8-12 fire departments responded to the collision. He also told FOX 32 that there is no way to know exactly how many people were on the train because some commuters who were not injured hopped off the train after the crash to get to where they needed to go.

ATU Local 308 President Robert Kelly said at a 10:30 a.m. press conference Monday that the crash was a "bizarre accident."

Kelly said some of the cars on the train that struck the train at Harlem had been scheduled for maintenance, and was taken out of rotation on Sept. 20. He said the train would have needed to be started to get moving on the tracks, but no one was driving.

The NTSB joined the ongoing CTA and Forest Park police and fire investigation of the crash as of 11:30 a.m. Monday.

Service was restored between Forest Park and Kedzie as of 9:30 a.m., though some trains may operate only as far west as Oak Park. Officials say the Harlem-Forest Park Blue Line station will be closed at least through Tuesday morning and possibly through Tuesday afternoon rush hour. CTA bus shuttle service was made available between Kedzie and Forest Park.

Harlem entrance and exit ramps along I-290 are still shut down as crews continue to work. Gaper delays and local closures are also increasing travel times on the Eisenhower.

The Sun-Times Media Wire and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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