Cleanup underway after train derails in Matteson; evacuation order lifted, officials say

ByABC7 Chicago Digital Team, Evelyn Holmes, and Tre Ward WLS logo
Friday, June 28, 2024
Cleanup underway after Matteson train derailment; no danger to public
A train derailed Thursday morning in Matteson, IL near Main Street. Mandatory evacuations were lifted in the area after the derailment.

MATTESON, Ill. (WLS) -- Our coverage of this story has moved here.

A train derailed Thursday morning in south suburban Matteson, a spokesman for the village said.

Many people who were asked to evacuate earlier in the day were back in their homes Thursday night as the work began to clean up the mess.

Matteson fire officials said about 25 cars of the train derailed just after 10:30 a.m. in the area of 21740 Main St.

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The spokesman said the train involved is from the Canadian National Railway Company.

"It was louder than normal and it was longer than normal," Matteson evacuee Cassandra Montgomery said. ""I heard, like, the loudest crash. You see the police officers driving up and down the street, telling people they need to evacuate, the first thing you think about is, like, 'Oh my God!' When they mention chemical spill."

There were no immediate reports of injuries, but officials did look at a leaking train car. The emergency response was only a precaution while crews quickly contained the leak.

SEE ALSO: NTSB reveals cause of 2023 toxic train crash in East Palestine, Ohio

The village spokesman said a white powdery substance seen leaking was tested by CN, who said it is not hazardous. A fire official said it was plastic pellets.

"When that chemical reaches a certain temperature, it just evaporates into the air. We have no readings or any hazards in the air," Homewood Fire Department regional hazmat specialist Steven DeJong said.

There was no threat to public safety, Canadian National Railway Company said. The cause of the derailment is now under investigation.

"Two railcars containing residues of Liquified Petroleum Gas leaked a limited amount of product, however the product was contained," a statement from Canadian National Railway Company read in part. "The other railcars that derailed but did not leak any product include non-dangerous goods, Caustic Soda and railcars containing residue of LPG. The precautionary evacuation which was initially initiated has since been lifted except for properties immediately adjacent to the site."

In a Facebook post, the village of Richton Park said any hazardous materials have been air-lifted from the site.

"We are in control of this, and you are safe to go back home," Matteson Mayor Sheila Chalmers-Currin said.

For more than a decade, the ABC 7 I-Team has been investigating safety concerns surrounding hazardous railroad cargo.

The ABC7 I-Team's analysis of federal data shows 231 trains derailed, with 61 in Cook County alone, since the beginning of 2022.

Chicago and suburban leaders continue to push federal regulators to enact new rules to protect the public.

The I-Team's analysis of federal data shows 231 trains derailed, with 61 in Cook County alone, since the beginning of 2022. Seven people were injured in those derailments.

Some Matteson residents were initially asked to evacuate Thursday morning as a precaution, but that order was lifted at 1:30 p.m.

"I said, 'Whoa! That's, like, in my backyard," resident Glenn Kirshaw said. "It said, 'Bam!' I said, 'that's pretty loud.' I said, 'It sounds like it's almost running on the street.' Cops were driving around with big megaphones and bullhorns, telling people to evacuate."

Main Street from 218th Street to 217th Street will remain closed as CN works to clear the scene.

"I was kind of in awe, shocked that it happened like that and then you got to go," Kirshaw said. "When police are driving up and down your street telling you've got to leave, this is an emergency, you think, 'Oh! Something serious is going on.'"

There was a Matteson, IL train derailment Thursday morning near Main Street. Mandatory evacuations have been lifted in the area.

"There is no immediate danger to the public, but we encourage everyone to remain clear of the area to allow crews to safely and efficiently conduct the clean-up process," officials said.

A CN spokesman said crews were responding to the incident. He said about 25 cars carrying "various substances" derailed.

Metra Electric inbound and outbound trains from Chicago to University Park were affected for a few hours, but were cleared to pass through the area about 1:30 p.m.

Some residents in the area said they did not hear or smell the derailment, so they were shocked when police arrived at their doors, telling them they had to leave.

Mayor Chalmers-Currin said several Illinois officials, including Gov. JB Pritzker, reached out after hearing of the derailment.

There was no word on how long it will take to clean the crash site up.

The cause of the derailment also remains under investigation by local authorities. Matteson police and fire crews are assisting CN with security and mitigation efforts.