Authorities are still attempting to determine the cause of a collision of two trains on the CTA Blue Line that left dozens injured during rush hour early Monday morning. According to the CTA, a westbound train was standing on the tracks close to Harlem Avenue in Forest Park when an eastbound train on the same track collided with it.
Police are looking into the possibility that the collision was caused by deliberate action. The CTA and federal officials believe it was an accident. At least two employees of CTA stated that they saw no one in the eastbound train’s control cab.
Suspicions were originally raised that the train had been hijacked or stolen because the eastbound train that caused the accident had only four cars. During rush hour, trains usually have more cars and do not leave the train yard with just four cars attached. The CTA confirmed that the eastbound train was on the wrong tracks at the time of the collision.
Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone said that no one was at the controls of the train at the time of the accident at approximately 8:00 am, although Tammy Chase of CTA could not confirm this.
Police are currently treating the collision as a crime scene, but Brain Steele of CTA says there has been no indication of a crime. The CTA currently theorizes that the accident was the result of mechanical malfunction. The eastbound train was marked as “out of service,” according to Steele, who said the crash occurred at fairly low speeds. Local authorities remain in charge of the investigation as federal officials believe it was an accident.
According to Robert Kelly of Amalgamated Transit Union 308, someone would need a key to turn on and drive the train from the train yard in Forest Park. He asked, “How did this happen?” Kelly also spoke to CBS 2 and said the train could have been traveling up to 25 mph when it struck the first train, and it’s not clear if there was a motorman on the eastbound train.
The CTA has stated that at least 33 people were injured in the collision. None of the injuries appear to be life-threatening, and it’s still not known how many people were on the trains at the time of the collision.
The real mystery of the case is how the eastbound train was able to to leave the rail yard and pass through a minimum of two interlocking systems that should have triggered brakes. A signal should also have alerted a driver, forcing the driver to apply the brakes on the train. One source said that some information indicates some of the cars on the train were undergoing maintenance at the Forest Park rail yard.
Following the accident, service was suspended between Austin Avenue and Forest Park and, while services later resumed, trains were not stopping at Harlem Avenue. The CTA offered shuttle buses to transfer Blue Line riders to the Green Line.