4 Injured When Cars Crash Into Train

UPDATED 02/14/11 10:59 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Two cars headed in opposite direction both hit the same freight train overnight, and now there are serious questions about whether the rail crossing safety systems were even working.

As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, four people were injured in the accident, and three of them were taken away in critical condition. The fourth was in serious, but stable, condition.

One car was headed north on Halsted Street, the other south, at the crossing near 90th Street just after 3 a.m.

One of the cars, a blue Nissan Maxima, hit the connection between the rail cars. Another, a beige Buick LeSabre, was wedged under the train.

Firefighters had to cut the cars open to pull the four accident victims out. Two were taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn and two were taken to Stroger Hospital of Cook County, Fire Media Affairs Chief Joe Roccasalva said.

A Level 1 Hazardous Materials response was also called, since tanker cars were involved. The tanker cars were carrying denatured alcohol, so there was no serious threat to neighbors from fumes or toxicity.

Denatured alcohol is commonly used as a sanding aid, solvent or fuel for camp stoves.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports

The train was not moving at the time of the accident. The crossing gates for the railroad were up, and the warning lights were not flashing.

Thus, the drivers apparently did not see the train. The tanker cars are painted black, but they have reflecting stripes.

Surveillance video from a nearby business shows the driver of the southbound car likely didn’t see the stopped train at all because he barely slows down before crashing into it.  Moments later, a northbound car did the same thing.

“You can see it on the videos — there was no flarings or anything indicating that a train was there,” Rick Fernandez of Ben’s Auto Care said.

Authorities say the accident could have been prevented if the crossing gates had been working properly. Neighbors say it doesn’t surprise them that the gates didn’t come down.

“It was one day last week – I don’t know what day it was – but the lights were flashing and the arms were up, from what I saw, and the police rerouted the traffic around that,” said neighbor Dorothy Jones.

“It’s not the first time,” said neighbor Deborah Smith. “It has happened before where the arms were not working at that time.

Police and fire officials say the tracks belong to Chicago Rail Link.

Authorities say when train engineer noticed the gates weren’t working, he threw down flares.

Then, as the train was moving eastbound, it stopped to let another train pass. That is when police say the cars collided into the train.

Neighbors say the crossing can be dangerous.

“Every day we cross the track, and a lot of times you might not hear nothing until the horn blows,” Smith said.

“By the time the horning is blowing, the train is almost to the street,” Jones added.

The Illinois Commerce Commission is investigating this train collision, among other agencies. Meanwhile neighbors say the rail company needs to come up with a solution.

“It needs to be fixed; recheck the wires, or something like that, for safety,” Jones said.

Investigators say Chicago Rail Link is responsible for this crossing. A spokesperson for the company says they are not commenting on the accident until their investigation is completed.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

  • JeanSC

    I’ve got some questions for the investigation. It’s 3 AM. It’s dark. There’s probably not a lot of traffic out then. You should be able to see far down the street. You should have both headlights on. I don’t know what the speed limit is, but you’re supposed to be obeying it. A train sitting across the street should block a lot of the view beyond it, and you should notice that. You should be sober and awake for driving. A large vehicle sitting across he street could be a large semi with a trailer, as well as a train. What’s the whole story about this accident?

  • Rocky

    I guess I could understand that the black tanker cars may have blended into the night and street. A vehicle traveling the 30 MPH speed limit would have little time to react. Still, a driver is responsible to drive defensively. I am sure there are signs indicated a crossing ahead. Therefore the drivers were forewarned. I hope the injuries sustained are not too serious. Hopefully, a quick recovery will come there way…



  • JJ

    Probably caused by some guy not caring since the signals were in a black neighborhood. The upside, the victims are going to be rich once they retain a lawyer to go after the rail road

    • Roberta Waker

      Why does someone always have to play the black or racist card and talk about money? I’m sure these people would prefer the accident DID NOT happen at all; money isn’t everything you know.

  • Slim of Lombard

    This could have possibly been avoided if they still had the old caboose cars where he could have let the engineer on the other end know what was happening on this end. Then he could possibly have pulled the train a little farther up.

  • Ryan

    The same thing happen to me about 3 years ago in Vernon Hills. Lucky we were able to swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid the train. After we realized that the gates were not functioning we called the police department and they said they got 6 911 calls saying that a train just struck a car when the gates didn’t go down. The RR crossing is obstructed by the public works building and we were unable to see it coming. Thank god we were not killed.

  • Gabe

    Sweet Jesus Jones we rich.

    • lars

      Would you like you new Cadillac in red, blue or green?

  • duh

    ok well…ya i understand the gates should work…however if people are claiming thats the problem are not very wise…they hit a parked train……so if the gate was working, what would they have seen the gate and not a stopped train..just wow people…you slow when u come to tracks, so you as a driver should be able to see a TRAIN, if you cant do you know what a stop sign looks like in the dark?

  • Ron K

    Lets see, everytime a incident like this occures when I read these comments I see just how stupied we really are and lack common sense. Lets look at the big picture first this is Halsted Street not some country farm road. There are something called streetlights and they are all over the City. The late Mayor Daley seen to that. Also you can see in the pictures the refective striping on the rail cars. That is a requirement. How many other cars were out that night and able to detour around the blocked crossing. I am sure these were not the only 2 cars on Halsted street. What if this was not a train but a car stalled in the road with no lights or a accident that just occured. Time we take responsibility for our own stupid actions and stop trying to blame someone else. Ok the lights were not working but there are all these other safety factors that we have. Streetlights, headlights, striping and out eyesight. Wonder just how fast those cars were going 3am, Halsted Street I am sure not the 30 35 mph speed limit.

  • http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/02/15/road-salt-to-blame-for-railroad-gate-failure/ Road Salt To Blame For Railroad Gate Failure? « CBS Chicago

    […] accident was caught on surveillance tape, which shows a car driving right into the tanker train that was stopped at the Halsted Street crossin… It was dark and the train cars are painted black, suggesting the drivers couldn’t see […]

  • KoKo

    Well, I was there and witnessed the whole thing. Supposedly one guy was getting a blow job from his girlfriend, and the other guy was wasted. Thank God everyone was ok, but honestly it was very dark outside and the train was black. There was no lights on the railroad or anything flashing to draw attention to the jet black parked train. My boyfriend had to pull one of the guys out of the car. Thank God they are alive.

  • http://www.moneymakingwebsitesecrets.org/cars/everything-about-cars/top-gear-car-hit-by-train-car-safety-message-bbc Top Gear – Car hit by train – Car safety message – BBC : Cars Blog | Everything You should Know about Cars

    […] 4 Injured When Cars Crash Into Train « CBS Chicago […]

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