3 Metra Tracks Closed at Union Station After Chunks of Concrete Fall, Fracture Commuter's Skull | NBC Chicago

3 Metra Tracks Closed at Union Station After Chunks of Concrete Fall, Fracture Commuter's Skull

Material that fell and struck the woman "fell from non-railroad structures built over the tracks," Amtrak spokesperson says

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A commuter at Union Station, which is beginning a massive makeover, was struck in the head and suffered a fractured skull after concrete fell from the ceiling, according to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg. NBC5's Dick Johnson reports. (Published Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016)

    Three Metra tracks remained closed Wednesday at Chicago's Union Station one day after falling concrete struck a commuter in the head, fracturing her skull. 

    Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said it was not immediately known how long the tracks would remain closed, but said the transit agency will update commuters ahead of the evening rush.

    The station is currently beginning a massive makeover.

    News of the falling concrete was reported by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg.

    The woman, Hilda Piell, said she didn't know what hit her.

    "Chunks of concrete, I don't know if it was one chunk or a bunch, just fell down and hit her on the head," Steinberg told NBC5.

    Steinberg and his wife felt smaller pieces of the decades old celling coated in soot from train exhaust. They immediately helped the woman, who is from Northbrook, as she was severely injured.

    "It hit her right here and she had blood dripping down her face and apparently a cracked skull," he said. "And she was going to go to work as a matter of fact, and my wife said 'no, you're bleeding profusely.'"

    Paramedics arrived at the station to tend to the woman.

    "I'm grateful it wasn't worse," Piell said.

    Steinberg said finding someone responsible proved difficult.

    "Metra runs the trains but they don't own the station," Steinberg said. "Amtrak owns the station but not the part that's falling on people's heads. It's like the waiter's going 'It's not my table.'"

    The material that fell and struck the woman "fell from non-railroad structures built over the tracks," according to an Amtrak spokesperson.

    Metra Board Chairman Martin Oberman said what happened Peill is "completely unacceptable."

    "Our agency remains deeply concerned about the condition of Chicago Union Station – both as a tenant whose train operations are impacted when incidents occur and also on behalf of our 55,000 customers who travel through this station daily," Oberman said in a statement. "After inspecting the location with Amtrak officials earlier today, I have made it clear that I expect Amtrak to take all available measures to secure the area immediately for the safety of passengers. Amtrak has also pledged to take appropriate steps to ensure public safety moving forward, including taking legal action against the responsible party. In addition, I have asked Metra staff to immediately investigate how this situation was allowed to occur so that steps can be taken to ensure that an accident like this doesn’t happen again."

    The track and two others were closed off while the area was being assessed, the spokesperson said.

    "They're planning to have luxury lounges and chi-chi stores, they should repair the ceiling so they don't bonk people on the head more," Steinberg said.

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