UPDATED 05/13/11 6:00 p.m.
MOUNT PROSPECT, Ill. (CBS) – A Metra train derailed after crashing into a dump truck in Mount Prospect Friday morning, causing the truck to burst into flames and killing the driver.
Twenty-three people on the train were taken to hospitals.
CBS 2’s Kris Habermehl reports around 8:40 a.m., Union Pacific/Northwest Line train No. 636 was traveling at a high rate of speed near Mount Prospect Road and Northwest Highway when it collided with the truck, which was attempting to drive around closed crossing gates.
The five-axle dump truck, which was carrying a load of concrete, burst into flame and was destroyed. Police identified the driver as 59-year-old Kazimierz Karasek of Prospect Heights, who was killed by the impact.
Officials say Karasek had a history of driving violations. They said it appeared that he may have driven into the path of the train simply because he was in a hurry.
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Meanwhile, the lead car of the inbound train derailed and was dragged along the tracks.
The gates were down, and signals were apparently working, according to police.
Passengers on the train were shaken up. They described being thrown forward and out of their seats from the impact, which showered the debris of particles from the train and the concrete, and seeing flames rushing underneath.
The front car derailed after what sounded like an explosion, passengers on the train said.
Archana Sai of Algonquin described her reaction when she saw the aftermath: “Oh, my God. I’m lucky to be alive today.”
Another passenger described the fear everyone felt at the point of impact.
“An initial bump, and then the bumping just became really strong, like an earthquake, and I thought we were derailing, but the bumping just continued like we were rolling over something, and I saw flames shooting up through the floor at the entrance of the car, and people were standing there, and I just heard screaming,” she said.
Another woman said: “We were thrown from the impact, and then all the windows on our side of the train were blown out, so we kind of ducked behind our seats as the debris flew over us. The passenger sitting closest to the emergency window – we had him pull the window out to relieve some of the smoke, because it was just dark and smoky, and then we started to pull debris out of the way so we could make our way off the car.”
Around 10 a.m., a few injured people were taken away on stretchers. Near the tracks, many of the people evacuated from the train called loved ones on their cell phones.
Everyone aboard the train was evaluated by emergency medical technicians. Ultimately, 23 passengers were taken to area hospitals, and 10 were treated at the scene.
All passengers were removed from the train, which normally would hold about 800, though it still had nine stops to make before getting to its destination.
Most of the passengers were taken by bus from the Cumberland train depot.
Train No. 636 originated at Harvard and was due at Ogilvie Station at 9:23 a.m. It had just left the Mount Prospect station and the crash occurred at 8:40 a.m. between the Cumberland station and the Mount Prospect station at a crossing where the gates were down, Metra spokesman Tom Miller said.
Many people said when they first felt the bump and heard the noise, they thought it was an act of terrorism, stemming from the fear surrounding Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs.
Train service, with delays, was restored by late Friday afternoon.
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.