Chicago, IL Elevated Train Wreck, Feb 1977
11 KILLED; PROBE STARTED IN LOOP EL DISASTER.
Chicago (AP) -- The crash of two elevated trains that killed 11 and injured more than 200 may have been caused by a trainman's overriding an automatic braking system or the failure of an electronic signal, authorities speculated today.
Accompanied by a loud crack and a flash of light, the rear-end crash of the two rush-hour trains in a snowstorm Friday evening sent carloads of screaming passengers crashing onto a downtown Loop district street below.
"It was horrible, just horrible," ERICA WILLIAMS, 33, a passenger, said. "We were making a turn. The next thing I knew I was falling forward. I heard a terrible noise and that was it."
"Everybody was flying, seats, everything ...." said MARIE ANSELMO, 56, of River Forest, one of hundreds of downtown workers who were headed home.
Some passengers were sealed in mangled coaches, while others spilled out of windows and dropped to the pavement to be buried under debris.
National Transportation Safety Board Investigators today were to start probing the wreckage.
One train had been stopped when it was struck from behind by a second at a sharp curve at Lake and Wabash Streets on the northeast corner of the elevated Loop circling downtown Chicago.
Officials said the cause was not determined immediately, but they said it was possible a trainman had overridden an automatic braking system, one component of a multimillion-dollar safety system installed last year after another collision.
JAMES McDONOUGH, chairman of the Chicago Transit Authority, which operates the elevated trains, said the cause could have ben an electronic signal malfunction.
The driver of the moving train, STEPHEN A. MARLIN, 34, was in serious condition at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
The train stopped on the tracks was loaded with downtown workers headed for the city's Northwest side. It was hit by a train full of commuters bound for stops on the West side and the suburb of Oak Park.
"People fell out of the train and the train fell on top of them," said AGNES McCORMICK, who witnessed the crash from her table in a nearby restaurant.
Two cars toppled from the tracks to rest on their sides in the street. Another stood on end, leaning against the superstructure that supports the elevated tracks. A fourth was piled atop one of the two cars on the pavement.
Rescuers with hacksaws and torches worked for two hours in snow and 20 degree temperatures to cut survivors and dead bodies from the wreckage. Police put out an emergency request for doctors and blood donors.
Standing on a crowded Loop street at rush-hour JAMES KILROY heard scrams. He looked up and saw four cars of the train he usually takes home plunge off the elevated tracks.
"I met an old friend on my way to the train station and we got a little carried away. I missed the train, but man was I lucky," KILROY said. "We were standing here talking about the good ol' times and then we heard a lot of screams and a loud noise -- like a big thud -- and that was it."
The crash was the latest in a series of collisions and derailments that have hit the aging elevated tracks of the Chicago Transit Authority. On Jan. 9 of last year, 333 persons were injured because of what was termed a signal malfunction.
The Xenia Daily Gazette Ohio 1977-02-05
CHICAGO TRAIN CRASH KILLS 11, INJURED 178
By Robert Mackay
Chicago (UPI) -- A crowded elevated train hit the rear of another in Chicago's Loop during the evening rush hour Friday, sending two cars and its passengers crashing to the street 20 feet below and leaving two other cars hanging from the tracks.
The County Morgue received 11 bodies following the accident and workers reported they were having difficulty identifying all of them this morning. The Chicago Police Department reported the death toll at 11, but the fire department held to its earlier count of 16 dead. A count by United Press International showed about 175 injured had been taken to seven area hospitals.
JAMES McDONOUGH, acting chairman of the Chicago Transit Authority, said a six-car train on the elevated Ravenswood line had stopped just after making a 90-degree turn from Wabash Avenue to Lake Street when an eight-car Lake Dan Ryan train hit it from behind.
The Ravenswood train derailed but stayed on the tracks, while the first and third cars of the following train crashed flat on their sides on Wabash Avenue and the second and fourth cars hung from the tracks. Each car involved contained an estimated 50 to 75 persons.
Firemen and policemen pulled passengers from the two prone cars through broken windows and used blow torches and chain saws to free persons trapped inside. Ladders and fire department snorkelswere used to get passengers from the handing cars.
Some persons were still trapped in the wreckage an hour after the derailment at 5:29 p. m. (CST). The legs of one person could be seen sticking out from underneath one car.
Bloodied persons stumbled or were carried into a nearby restaurant, which was turned into an emergency clinic. Many of them wandered around inside, looking for a telephone to call relatives or staring at the floor.
"When we were turning the corner it just fell," CHRISTINA THOMAS, 18, a passenger, said in a quivering voice as she sat in the restaurant. "It happened real fast. The man next to me just laid there. He couldn't do nothing."
ROBERT SMITH, 25, said, "The train was heading west and it started to hand over (the tracks). When it started to tip, I held onto the rail, and then it just crashed onto the street."
"I helped a lady out and got out myself through some broken glass. I think my partner's dead."
MRS. PAULINE LUVINSKI, 47, with blood on her right eye and cut hands, said, "A man fell right on top of me and there was a lady right next to me. They (firemen) pulled us out right away. I thought I would die."
McDONOUGH said, "The Ravenswood train was stopped just beyond the curve for reasons unknown, whether to clear a train or because of a temporary stop of a train going ahead of them."
"The Dan Ryan train .. came up upon him and hit him in the rear, obviously at a slow speed, because there is a 15 mile per hour speed limit maximum. Obviously, something went wrong, either human or mechanical failure."
In Washington, the National Transportation Safety Board said it was taking over the investigation of the crash, while the CTA appointed its own investigative panel.
Middlesboro Daily News Kentucky 1977-02-05