Police Seek Answers To CTA Station Crash

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Police Seek Answers To CTA Station Crash

Post by baldwindeb on April 27th 2008, 6:48 am

Police Seek Answers To CTA Station Crash
2 Killed, 21 Injured When 18-Wheeler Plowed Into Cermak-Chinatown Stop Friday Afternoon

Two people were killed Friday when a semi plowed into the Red Line station in Chinatown.

Saturday, police are searching for answers to explain why it happened. CBS 2's Susan Carlson reports on the investigation and CBS 2's Pamela Jones reports on the two casualities.

Service is back to normal on the Red Line and trains have been stopping at the Cermak-Chinatown station all day long.

The station has been operating for 40 years and this is the first time anything has ever forced a temporary shut down.

It wasn't until a thorough inspection was complete, that the CTA was ready to reopen the Cermak-Chinatown station Saturday morning.

"Yesterday, immediately after the collision, we did suspend line service for a period of time while CTA engineers inspected the structure. The engineers determined the structure was safe," said CTA president Ron Huberman.

It was a horrifying scene during Friday's rush hour. A semitrailer careened out of control through a crowd of pedestrians and slammed into the station's entryway.

"It's a terrible tragedy and like anything else, they're fully reviewing how it took place—how the truck came off so fast, and the trailer was empty," said Mayor Daley. "That's what we have to find out."

Turns out, the answers investigators are looking for what may be found on videotape. The crash around 5:20 p.m. Friday was captured by at least one CTA surveillance camera, CTA spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney said. The footage was turned over to police, she said. Officials declined to release the footage on Saturday.

"The CTA has multiple cameras at this location," Huberman said. "The camera did capture the incident. Those DVDs have been downloaded and turned over to police as part of their investigation."

The truck driver limped out of the hospital while in police custody late Friday. He is identified as 51-year-old Don Wells. He has not been charged with any crime as of Saturday, and police would not say whether he was still being questioned late Saturday afternoon. He remains in police custody after his 18-wheeler killed two and injured 21.

Meanwhile, even though trains are rolling into the station again, the CTA is reevaluating whether that entrance should ever reopen. Engineers determined there was no structural damage to the overhead station, but the stairs sustained "very significant damage," said Huberman.

The CTA estimates damage from the crash will be in the millions.

"There was significant structural damage to both the stairwell and the escalator in that area that will require complete rebuilding, so we will attempt to get that done as quickly as possible," Huberman said. "Obviously safety is our number one priority. What we are going to be looking for in getting that station reopened is making sure a tragedy such as this won't happen again. It's a terrible tragedy and our heart goes out to those who were impacted by it."

The Red Line stop at the gateway of Chinatown reopened at 10 a.m. Saturday morning, but the main entrance is still closed. It will be closed for several weeks.

For the time being, commuters are using an auxiliary entrance across the street from the main entrance to access the station.

CBS 2 has learned the trucking company is Plymouth, Mich.-based Whiteline Express Ltd. We have tried to contact a spokesman, but so far no one is available for comment.

There's no indication drugs or alcohol played a role in the crash. The driver cleared tests for both.

One possibility under investigation is whether the truck's brakes failed, but it's still too soon to tell.

Meanwhile, the victims of the accident are still trying to cope, as are their loved ones.

Eighteeen-year-old Delisia Brown was returning from running errands for her prom in May. But what could have been a beautiful occasion marking a promising future for the Lane Tech senior vanished in the impact of the crash.

"They say she had just came from looking at her prom dress with her girlfriend Nicole that was also involved in the incident. And we know she's in critical condition at Mercy Hospital," said Brown's aunt Nicole Ray.

Brown's sister Nakeisha remembers that her sister wanted to be a psychologist.

"She was either going to go to South Carolina or Purdue in Indiana," she said.

Saturday, dozens of loved ones gathered near her family's home to remember a young woman, an honor student, an angel.

"I've got to be strong. I know my sister's in a better place," said Delisia Brown's sister Latonya Washington.

"She definitely was a straight A student. She didn't deserve to die like this," said Nakeisha Brown

Eloisa Guerrero also lost her life in the crash.

Her fiancée says she was sitting on a bench like she always does at the station.

She was on her way home from her job at the East Sutton Hotel. That's when her family says she was hit.

Guerrero's fiancée says they were planning a December wedding and she'd just spoke with him minutes before the crash, saying: "I love you."

"She had a wonderful sense of humor," co-worker Keishana Moore said. "She went out of her way to speak to everyone."

Guerrero leaves behind one son, another preceded her in death. The families of both are now planning funeral arrangements.

The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office says both victims died of "multiple injuries." Their cause of death has been termed accidental.

Friday's Chaos
The 18-wheeler smashed without warning into the street-level bus shelter at the Cermak-Chinatown stop, then "climbed the stairs" of the station's north stairwell around 5:20 p.m., said Fire Department spokesperson Larry Langford.

A witness said the truck appeared to be out of control as it sped at about 50 mph down the Cermak exit of the Dan Ryan Expressway moments before crashing.

You don't expect a big semi to come at you from the Dan Ryan," said witness Robert Moore. "It came 40, 50 miles an hour everyone was flying just like toys."

Twenty-one people were transported to area hospitals, Langford said. The police Major Accident Investigation Unit issued a community alert Saturday seeking information from the public concerning the accident.

Most of those injured were either in the bus shelter underneath the elevated train station or in the stairwell of the station.

At least three people remained hospitalized Saturday afternoon. All were reported in fair condition.

Wells was taken to Stroger in an ambulance under police guard. Some witnesses said he appeared to be slumped over in the cab of the truck as though asleep at the time of the cab.

It took rescuers an hour to extricate him from the cab of the truck.

Hospital spokesman Sean Howard said Wells tested negative following a blood alcohol examination, but that he refused a urinalysis. He apparently was brought to Stroger conscious but in an ambulance already accompanied by police officers.

Howard said Wells was advised to stay at the hospital.

"As far as out care of him, we informed him that he should remain here for treatment. He indicated issues concerning his insurance his medical insurance," Howard said.

Still, a CAT scan revealed he had no head injuries, and at Wells' insistence the hospital administered no further medical care and he was released.

The intersection has a risky reputation because the traffic lights there change quickly, said Meekus Wong, who works at a restaurant located directly in front of the train station.

"That was always a very dangerous intersection because the traffic lights switch really fast," she said.

"I was supposed to take the train. Thank God I took the bus," she added.

Dazed, in shock and bleeding, the injured seemed to be everywhere near the gateway to Chinatown.

"It looked like Armageddon, the end of the world," said witness Robert Moore. "People flying everywhere, a lot of people hurt that weren't expecting it."

"He just kept going, he was kind of bent down on the steering wheel like had a heart attack or went to sleep," witness Daryl Holbert said of the truck driver.

Red Line service was interrupted following the crash, and thousands of people got stuck as they tried to get home on the Red Line after work, or get to the White Sox game. Cermak Road was also closed for several hours after the crash.
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Re: Police Seek Answers To CTA Station Crash

Post by shanaya on April 27th 2008, 10:11 am

Wow, that is tragic! Keep us updated, Deb.
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