Local

On This Day In 1950: The Green Hornet Streetcar Disaster

Green Hornet Disaster

Thirty-three people died when a Green Hornet streetcar slammed into a gasoline truck at 63rd and State streets on May 25, 1950. (Courtesy: Craig Cleve)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — One of the city’s worst mass transit disasters occurred on this day 62 years ago on the South Side.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports, on May 25, 1950, a Green Hornet streetcar hit a gasoline truck at 63rd and State streets. The streetcar was headed south on State Street at the time.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports

“The streetcar went to its switch to avoid a flooded underpass, and apparently, the motorman of the streetcar was not paying attention, and went through that switch at total velocity, and hit the side of that truck with dire consequences,” said Craig Cleve, author of the new book, The Green Hornet Streetcar Disaster.

A total of 33 people on the streetcar died that day. Another 50 were injured, according to published reports.

The fire that broke out when one of the gasoline truck’s tankers ruptured destroyed five buildings and several cars parked nearby, according to published reports.

“On streetcars, the tendency on the rear doors was to use them only as an entrance and not as an exit, so they opened inward, and passengers who were trying to exit at that time panicked and started pushing on the doors,” Cleve said.

Cleve said his grandfather usually took the streetcar that ran on State Street, but he worked late that day and was spared.

A 1985 Chicago Tribune article says the Chicago Transit Authority paid out almost $900,000 to the victims’ families after the accident.

The CTA did away with the city’s streetcar system altogether in 1958, replacing the streetcar lines with bus routes.