By Jean Lotus
The CTA reported Wednesday morning that service has resumed on the Blue Line to Forest Park after investigators finished a cleanup of Mondays train crash site at the Harlem stop.
Investigators still have not released any information how a driverless four-car CTA train, parked in the Forest Park train yard, maneuvered its way out of the yard Sept. 30 and along a half-mile track travelling the wrong direction until it struck a stationary train at the Harlem Avenue stop in Forest Park. The CTA reported the train was travelling around 20 miles per hour when it struck the stationary train.
The accident took place about 7:40 a.m. and injured dozens of people, none seriously, on the stationary train. Monday morning, Forest Park Village Administrator Tim Gillian said the moving train was thought not to have a driver. The accident may have been caused by "a mechanical malfunction that allowed the car to move by itself," Gillian said Monday. The CTA announced that no driver was seen in the train in initial surveillance video.
As the investigation of the incident continued into Tuesday morning, all questions were being referred to National Transportation Safety Board investigators.
The official count of passengers with minor injuries transported to nine area hospitals was 33. Earlier, the number of injured had been put as high as 48.
Gillian said the CTA and the NTSB are reviewing extensive surveillance video from the train yard, but reports that the train was hijacked or that the event was a terrorist attack were false, he said.
"Forest Park initially treated the scene as a crime scene, just in case it was," Gillian added.
CTA spokeswoman Lambrini Lukibis confirmed Monday that 33 people had been transported to nine area hospitals. She said all injured people were passengers on the stationary train. She confirmed the investigation was ongoing.
"We have no reason to believe it was the result of any criminal activity," she said Monday. "At this point we don't have any evidence of a stolen train."
Gillian said that while some passengers were waiting for ambulances they either decided to get medical treatment themselves or walked away from the accident scene.
"In the triage world, they were code green and code yellow," Gillian said. Code red would be a significant injury, he said.
"We did not see any injuries that appeared to be critical at that stage. We had ambulance personnel take those in need of a backboard." Less injured passengers were held on a CTA bus, he said.
Shaky passengers exit the train
Forest Park Commissioner Rory Hoskins said he dropped his 14-year-old daughter, Jasmine, at the station around 7:38 to ride to high school and had just left when he noticed buckled train cars were smashed together at the platform.
"She was on the platform and said she heard people swearing and saw some passengers coming off the train pretty shaky," Hoskins said. He ended up driving his daughter to school.
"She's fine; she's a pretty resilient kid."
CTA investigators closed the westbound tracks, which remained shut down into Monday night while the accident scene was investigated. Westbound train service ended at the Oak Park stop, where shuttle buses took passengers to points west, including the Harlem and Forest Park stops.
Gillian said it was still curious how a train could malfunction and move by itself.
"It's good no one got [seriously] hurt, but that train was definitely under power and rolling," Gillian said. "This was not a minor fender bender, that's for sure."
Jean Lotus is editor of Forest Park Review