The CTA is investigating how an out-of-service train left the Forest Park station this morning, colliding head-on with another train and injuring dozens of people.
The train had been at the Forest Park yard for repairs when it rolled out of the station around 8 a.m. and struck head-on an outbound train stopped at the Harlem Avenue station, just one stop away, according to CTA spokesman Brian Steele.
The train was traveling about 20 mph, Steele said. Two switches should have stopped it, he said. "We do have failsafes in place, however they didn't function the way that they should have in this particular case."
Steele said all aspects of the accident are still under investigation, including whether an operator or anyone else was on the four-car train.
At least two CTA employees in the Forest Park yard said they saw no one in the control cab of the train, according to Robert Kelly, president of Local 308 of the Amalgamated Transit Union.
Kelly said CTA officials and Forest Park police have told the union that no criminal activity or foul play was suspected.
Like Steele, Kelly said it is a mystery how the train that caused the collision could have passed through track switches without an emergency stop mechanism from activating.
"The train should have been tripped and gone into emergency," Kelly said. "It's starting to look like a mechanical malfunction."
The CTA said 33 people were taken to nine hospitals, but there were no serious injuries. CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase disputed a count by Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone, who said 48 people were taken to 10 hospitals.
Taylor Pettiford was waiting at Harlem Avenue for the train that would take her to school when she heard screaming.
"Stop! Stop! Stop the train!" she heard people yelling. "Slow down!"
Then there was a big crash and more screams. Pettiford saw a woman knocked down complaining that her shoulder hurt.
"I instantly started crying and I called my mom to come pick me up," Pettiford, 17, said.
Pettiford said she was rushed off the platform by CTA personnel.
Kayla Clemons, 14, said she had just gotten on the train when the collision occurred.
"I actually said goodbye and the doors close and out of nowhere I heard this big boom and then everybody flew," Kayla said told WGN-TV. "I fell to the ground. I hurt my leg and my arm and, well, I was laying down. But they opened the doors and it was smoke everywhere."
Her sister, Jayla Clemons, 11, said it sounded like the conductor was trying to communicate with the approaching train.
"I heard the conductor, he was like, 'Stop, stop!' But I guess nobody was on it," Jayla said. "So then he jumped off and then the whole thing, it hit each other. And then I was like, 'My sister's on it,' and then I just fell. The whole ground was shaking so my back hit something that was metal and then I fell and my knee popped."
Dr. Dan Noonan, director of emergency services at Rush Oak Park Hospital, said three doctors took care of the injured there. "We had a full complement of nurses to take care of them," he said. "And actually we had an extra two of our physician assistants that came in today. This was their first day and they got to see all this excitement."
Blue Line service was initially suspended between Forest Park and Kedzie Avenue, with shuttle buses provided. Shortly before 10 a.m., trains resumed service to the Forest Park terminal but were not stopping at the Harlem station.
Steele could not estimate how long the damaged trains would remain on the track, but said they would stay there "at least a good part of this afternoon."
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