Woman Files Lawsuit, Describes CTA Train Crash

Two negligence lawsuits filed in wake of CTA crash

By Natalie Martinez
|  Tuesday, Mar 25, 2014  |  Updated 10:27 PM CDT
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Plaintiff says she's struggling to do everyday things by herself, afraid to get back on the train. Natalie Martinez reports.

Plaintiff says she's struggling to do everyday things by herself, afraid to get back on the train. Natalie Martinez reports.

Photos and Videos

Emergency Stop System Fails In Train Derailment

There is new insight into the CTA derailment at O'Hare airport. Today we've learned the train was traveling at a normal speed when it pulled into the station and an emergency stop system went off, but failed to keep the train from flying off the tracks and up an escalator. An airport security worker injured in the crash has now filed the first lawsuit against the transit agency. NBC 5'S Christian Farr reports.

Derailed Train Raises Questions About Automated Safety Systems

Certain systems are designed to take control of the train if the person driving it isn't obeying proper signals, but it isn't clear what happened at the CTA Blue Line crash Monday. Phil Rogers reports.
More Photos and Videos

One of two women who've filed a lawsuit following Monday's Blue Line train derailment at O'Hare International Airport is speaking out about her ordeal.

Niakesha Thomas, 22, was en route to her job at Hudson's News Stand when the train jumped the track and crashed into the escalator.

Her lawsuit claims the Chicago Transit Authority was negligent and blames "a reported combination of operator inattention and excessive speed" for the crash, and claims her "job requires her to stand continuously and her injuries have left her currently unable to walk."

"I can't use bathroom by myself, I can't take a bath," Thomas told NBC 5.

Thomas says she was sitting in the third car of the train when the accident occurred.

"I heard a big noise, I felt my chest hit the seat in front of me, and then my back hit the seat behind me and then the lights went out," Thomas said. "I got up, I walked out and I hollered, I got scared, I started shaking, I was a nervous wreck."

Thomas said the reality of the situation set in when she saw the escalator -- usually full of passengers and airport employees -- with the first train car on top of it.

"I'm used to seeing someone on that escalators every day, so to know that nobody was on that escalator, nobody passed ... it's a miracle to me," Thomas said.

Thomas says she dreads going back on the train and going back to work, but more importantly, her back is so sore that she can't hold her 1-year-old son.

Twenty-three-year-old Dalila Jefferson, a security officer at O'Hare, also filed a lawsuit Tuesday. She was riding in the first car when the train jumped the tracks and landed on the stairs and escalators leading to the airport terminals.

“Dalila was about to get off the train in the first car when she was catapulted forward as the car went up the escalator," Jefferson's attorney Matthew T. Jenkins said. "She had to be extracted from the car, and is experiencing severe pain from a broken foot, as well as neck and back injuries."

Jenkins said Jefferson was on her way to work at O'Hare when the crash occurred.

The eight-car train continued through the end of the platform just before 3 a.m. Monday, injuring 32 people. A National Transportation Safety Board spokesman said Tuesday an emergency stop system activated as it should have but failed to stop the train.

“It’s clear there was a failure on multiple levels. We hope this lawsuit helps bring answers as to how this could happen and to prevent it from happening again,” Jenkins said. “Millions of people ride the CTA to and from work and they deserve to feel safe."

CTA union president Robert Kelly told reporters Monday afternoon that the operator of the train may have dozed off.

"The indication is there, yes," Kelly said. "She has worked a lot of hours in the past weekend, and the indication is there."

The operator was interviewed by the NTSB Tuesday for about two hours.

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