An Amtrak train plowed into the back of a freight train Friday on the south side of the city, seriously injuring five Amtrak employees in an engine car that hurtled to a stop atop a crushed boxcar. Most of the 187 passengers walked away.
Passengers, many of them carrying winter coats and luggage, streamed off the trains with the help of rescue workers. Some held the hands of small children.
Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said none of the passengers appeared to have suffered serious injuries when the Amtrak train came to a "very hard stop," but were being checked by medical personnel. Some were taken away on stretchers and backboards.
Coert Vanderhill, 60, of Holland, Mich., said the train was approaching the station at about 15 to 20 mph when the engine "just ran right up the tail end" of the freight train.
"Everybody just hit the seat in front of them," he said.
Most are the 'walking wounded'
Vanderhill, who had come to Chicago to visit his children, had a small cut on his nose and said most passengers, like him, were the "walking wounded."
Fifteen ambulances and a fire-suppression unit were at the scene tending to passengers, officials said.
The Amtrak's three double-decker passenger cars remained upright, officials said. Most of the damage was concentrated on the passenger train's engine, and no one was in the portion of the freight train that was struck.
There were 187 passengers and six crew members aboard the train, which was en route from Grand Rapids, Mich., to Chicago, Amtrak spokesman Derrick James said.
The freight train was a Norfolk Southern train en route from Elizabeth, N.J., to Chicago, according to company spokesman Rudy Husband. Neither of the two workers on board were injured, he said.
Husband said he had no details about what caused the accident or what the freight train was carrying.
James said it remains unclear which train was in the wrong place. He said the train shares the track with Norfolk Southern, which owns it.
He also said he did not know if the freight train was moving or stationary when it was struck.
James said Amtrak is awaiting information from an event recorder, a device similar to the black boxes on commercial jets.
The National Transportation Safety Board was sending investigators.
James said of particular interest is what the signals were before the Amtrak train got to the area where the accident occurred.