2 dead after truck crashes into CTA station

21 injured in crash, including driver
April 25, 2008 9:04:03 PM PDT
A semi trailer has crashed into the CTA station at Cermak-Chinatown, killing at least two women.Fifteen ambulances were sent to the scene after the Friday rush hour accident. Eleven people were critically injured, said Chicago Fire Department spokesman Raymond Orozco. He also said eight people were in stable condition; two were in good condition.

A total of four people were extricated from the scene near the station stairs and escalator area, where the truck cab was embedded. The truck driver was one of those extricated and was treated at Stroger Hospital, Orozco said. The driver then gave himself up to police.

Two hours after the crash, Red Line service resumed for all stops, with trains bypassing the Cermak station. The stop will be closed until further notice. For status updates, click here.

Authorities stretched tarps around the base of the semi, indicating that there were likely victims underneath it. Two women, pedestrians, were pronounced dead at the scene, said fire department spokesman Larry Langford.

One witness said that the semi came off the Stevenson Expressway driving fast, as if it had no brakes, and ran into the stairwell and escalator where people go up onto the train. He said several people were standing at the bus stop in the truck's path and going in and out of the train station.

The truck crashed into the CTA stop at 138 W. Cermak Rd. about 5:20 p.m., according to police News Affairs Officer JoAnn Taylor.

The exit to the highway comes to a T in front of the station, where drivers should make a right or left turn. The truck driver apparently did neither.

Several people were initially reported pinned under the semi. The Chicago Fire Department said at least five children were among those taken to the hospital. Two of the children were initially reported in serious to critical condition.

Another witness reported that the cab of the truck was propped in an upward position and said the escalator bank actually stopped the momentum of the crash after the truck rolled right through the nearby bus shelter, which was crushed up against the side of that escalator bank.

Rescuers wirked diligently to get into the cab of the truck. The smell of diesel was reported near the crash scene. Crews first concentrated on stabilizing the semi to keep it from potentially falling over.

The cause of the crash is still unknown. The driver is being questioned.

The driver, 51, passed a blood-alcohol test, but would not submit to urine test. It's unknown whether he's cooperating with police.

Witnesses say he idn't sound his horn to warn people.

Crews brought in a wrecker and have separated the truck from the CTA station. The semi sat in the center of Cermak Rd., a dozen yards from the original scene. The truck is listed as being owned by Xtra Leasing out of St. Louis.

CTA President Ron Huberman said he does not know when the station and will reopen.

Huberman said there is extensive damage to the station, the escalators have collapsed, but the overhead structure is sound. The Office of Emergency Management Communication said it brought the Illinois Department of Transportation in to check the structural integrity.

Those seeking information on their loved ones can call 312.743.INFO (4636)

Survivors Speak

Some witnesses saw the driver before the impact.

"He come off the expressway at a kind of fast speed. He just kept going. He was bent on the steering wheel like he had a heart attack or went to sleep," said Daryl Holbert.

Then the impact.

"I heard this horrible, loud crash and crunching noise. I got up and thought the El train had come off the tracks," said Michael McClure.

But it was the semi truck - hitting one victim after another.

"People were flying everywhere, a lot of people hurt. They were waiting on the bus, coming down the escalator. You don't expect a big semi to come at you," said Robert Moore.

Some victims were conscious, sitting up and talking.

"I saw maybe 10-12 victims who just had scrapes and bruises,didn't look very serious, a couple of cuts on the neck and shoulder," said Carl Flenner.

Others were trapped and, in some cases, not moving.

"I thought they were all dead. When the firemen and policemen arrived and started speaking to them, two of them started moving. I said, 'Oh they are alive! They are alive!'" said Dolly Turner.

There were survivors, people who missed the accident simply because of timing.

"I feel so blessed actually. I feel like I have a guardian angel looking over me. I just-- It's a miracle. I obviously feel bad for the people," said Carly Kaput.

Conditions of the Injured

The 21 injured were taken to about a half-dozen area hospitals. The E.R. doctor at Comers Children's Hospital said he was surprised that the injuries weren't more severe. The injuries to the patients at Comers appear to be non-life threatening.

Stroger hospital received four patients, two adults and two children. A spokesperson for the hospital says all four were in stable condition.

"We have four victims here, and I've been told two victims at Provident Hospital. They all appear to be in stable condition. I think the injuries are considered non-life threatening," said Sean Howard, Stroger Hospital spokesperson.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital received two adults, including what appeared to be a CTA worker. The two women at Northwestern Hospital were listed in fair condition. Comer Children's Hospital at the University of Chicago Medical Center received three children - one 14 years old, one 11 years old, and the age of the third was unknown.

"So far we've seen injuries that are at least, at this time, deemed to be not life threatening. We do have the bumps and bruises; we have cuts and lacerations," said Dr. Nicholas Strane, Comer Children's Hospital.

Strane said he treated the children and explained the importance of having pediatric specialists available.

"To call on the resources of a trauma level one center, which has surgery and neurosurgery if needed," he said.

The doctors were waiting for test results on the three children at Comers, but if they appear to be Ok, they were likely to be released Friday night.

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