Speeding Train Derails in Chicago

Speeding Train Derails in Chicago

On September 17, 2005, a Chicago commuter train, inbound from the city of Joliet, derailed.  Of the 189 passengers involved in this serious five-car train accident, two women were killed, 16 people were left in critical or serious condition, and several others suffered minor damages.  The US Transportation Safety Board determined that the train was traveling nearly 59 miles per hour over the speed limit when it crossed over a bridge just before the wreck.  This preliminary evidence came from one of the train’s three “black boxes.” 

According to the federal Safety Board, the train should not have been traveling over ten miles per hour over the bridge, though it crossed at speeds nearing 70 miles per hour.  The spokeswoman for the commuter rail company has stated that all track signals were working properly at the time of the train derailment.  She was not able to provide any further information related to the cause of the accident. 

The engineer operating the commuter train at the time of derailment had six months of experience operating the Metra trains.  Prior to these six months, the train operator received six months of training which included trial runs between Joliet and Chicago.  He had also worked for another rail company for an additional five years.  The engineer was taken to a local hospital for routine drug tests.  Officials say the 45-year old man, though “badly shaken,” appeared to be in good health, with normal vision and hearing at the time of the train wreck. 

One woman on the commute train said that she heard the brakes screeching before the train began weaving back and forth and skidding out of control.  DePaul University master’s student, Stephanie Smith, heard people weeping and screaming before she went flying into the safety seat bar and fell to the ground. 

From television footage, it appears that the train’s engine was tilted at an angle, dragging the first car off the tracks behind it.  The remaining four cars, detached from the first two sections of the train, were missing several windows and showed significant damage. 

Officials are still investigating this derailment to determine the factors which caused or contributed to this fatal train accident.  


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