Trains collide at Chicago Union Station

From the Chicago Sun-Times

An Amtrak train locomotive collided with a Metra commuter train Friday morning, sending a dozen people to area hospitals and snarling train travel through the evening rush hour.

Federal Railroad Administration officials were studying the tracks, signals and switches where the slow-moving trains collided, at a bend in the tracks in an underground tunnel near Chicago’s Union Station.

None of the 12 people seeking medical attention, including the Amtrak train’s engineer and a pregnant Metra rider, had life-threatening injuries, according to Marc Levison, the Chicago Fire Department’s assistant deputy fire commissioner for EMS.

Chicago fire department officials credited train passengers — about 1,500 on the Metra train and 117 on the Amtrak southbound for Carbondale — with a calm and orderly evacuation in the dark tunnel.

“The passengers who self-evacuated did a tremendous job,” Levison said. Passengers and firefighters and paramedics traversed over train tracks and large rocks in the tunnel partially lit by ambient light. Fire crews put down a fiber-optic rope to help show the way.

Those aboard the trains reported feeling a sharp jolt, then a series of bumps. Teleshia McClendon, aboard the Metra train, said she felt her car tip to the side. Looking behind her, one car “was caved in. There was a big hole.”

“We thought it was a terrorist attack,” she said.

Amtrak also was inspecting the tracks to determine what caused the collision, according to spokesman Derrick James, who would not say whether human error or a switching problem might have been a factor. Amtrak oversees switching at the West Loop train depot.

The collision at 8:15 a.m. initially backed up trains due into Union Station, said Metra spokesman Tom Miller said. Metra officials hoped train travel would resume normally in time for the evening rush hour, but the investigation into the incident led to delays into the evening.