Two adults and a child were killed after a Metra train struck their vehicle Sunday afternoon on the Far South Side, officials said.
Just after 5 p.m., an inbound train struck a vehicle at the railroad crossing of 107th Street and Vincennes Avenue, Chicago fire officials said. The Rock Island train pushed the car about a half mile before coming to a complete stop near 103rd Street and Vincennes Avenue.
Two adults, a man and a woman, and one child riding in the vehicle were all pronounced dead, according to fire officials. They were believed to be a family, fire officials said.
A 43-year-old man who was the train’s conductor was transported to Little Company of Mary Hospital in good to fair condition, according to fire officials.
The engineer suffered an injury to his leg. Both injuries to Metra employees were non-life-threatening, Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said at the scene.
Forty-one passengers were on board the train at the time, although no one was riding in the front car. Three passengers reported minor injuries and two were taken to area hospitals, Gillis said.
They were transported to the 95th Red Line ‘L’ station so they could continue their way into the city, said Metra spokeswoman Meg Reile.
The train was heading inbound from Joliet to 35th Street and, after the Blue Island stop, was “basically expressing” through the area at about 79 mph, Gillis said.
The force of the impact caused the train’s front car to partially derail, according to Reile. At some point, the vehicle caught fire, she said.
Gillis said Metra is not yet able to confirm what caused the collision, but “there is no indication the gates were malfunctioning.”
Only the frame of the dark-colored vehicle remained near the front of the train, after the vehicle had been dragged from 107th to 103rd. Rocks from the tracks littered the intersection at 103rd.
“It’s heart-rending,” Gillis said. “It’s the worst thing I’ve seen. I’ve been doing this job for 12 years, this is the worst scene I’ve seen.”
Matt Townsend, who was riding back to the city with his girlfriend after spending the day with his family in Joliet, was still trying to process the “traumatic” event Sunday night.
Townsend, of Pilsen, recalled feeling a big “thud” before seeing dirt fly up in the air.
“It was hard to see out of the windows because there was so much dirt on both sides of the train,” Townsend told the Sun-Times in a phone interview Sunday night. “And I knew there was something wrong at that time.”
Townsend, who was in the third or fourth rail car, said people were in shock as they were escorted off the train.
“Everybody was anxious, tensions were running high, and we were wanting to get off faster than the line was allowing us to,” Townsend said. “… The car was unrecognizable as a car, it was just a clumped up piece of metal… and I started seeing flames come from the car, and that was scary. But most importantly, I knew that people had died.”
Townsend, 47, said most train passengers were stuck in the area for about an hour since buses were stalled and couldn’t cross the tracks. He and his girlfriend ultimately walked to 95th Street before hopping on a bus to the Red Line.
“That was a horrible adventure,” said Townsend, noting it took five hours for them to get home.
Sandy Wilson was standing across the street at 103rd and said right after the train came to a stop, two men ran to the vehicle to try to help the victims. She then saw crews work to remove the child and a woman from the vehicle.
Standing nearby, Wanda Durrell said she was heartbroken when she heard one of the victims was a child. “I have a 5-year-old granddaughter” Durrell said. “I just cant imagine”
Metra is in the early stages of its investigation into the crash.
All inbound and outbound Metra Rock Island service has been stopped near 103rd.
The train was heading north into the city. It left Joliet at 4:25 p.m. and was due downtown at 5:25 p.m., Reile said. Its last stop before the crash was at the Blue Island Vermont Street station. The train was expressing to the 35th Street station.