A Rock Island District Metra Train may have been going as fast as 60 mph when it collided with a car near Oak Forest on Thursday afternoon, officials said.
The two women in the car, both in their 80s, were killed.
"It's probably one of the worst hits I've seen on the tracks with a car for a long time," said Oak Forest Fire Chief Terry Lipinski, who's been on the force for 34 years.
The accident happened at the crossing at 167th Street and Central Avenue, in unincorporated Cook County between Oak Forest and Tinley Park, when train No. 420 inbound from Joliet struck the vehicle.
A law enforcement source said an eyewitness told authorities that the car drove through the crossing gate. The women had just left a dominoes outing, according to the source, and had dropped off another female dominoes player when the accident happened.
The impact area is just south of Yankee Woods, a Cook County Forest Preserve. The car was dragged several hundred feet down the tracks. One train-car subsequently derailed.
"I wasn't even on the train five minutes and as soon as we hit that intersection we felt the impact, all the lights on the train instantly went out," ," said passenger Dan Steffens, who never made it to his job as a chef downtown. "Everyone started freaking out. You could feel the train swaying back and forth. I was waiting for the train to flip over."
The car was unrecognizable in the aftermath.
"This is a very difficult scene because the car was struck at such an impact. And so there's part of the card still stuck under the train," said Metra spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet.
She said special equipment will be brought in to lift up the car when it's "re-railed."
Officials set up a triage station for passengers and Metra officials brought in cooling buses to help them beat the heat. Eight of the 89 passengers on the train were transported to hospitals with bumps and bruises. None of their injuries were serious, officials said.
Metra held up 37 trains as a result of the collision, mostly from downtown at the LaSalle Street Station, where waiting passengers braved stifling heat.
Southbound trains were trickling through on a single track shortly after 6 p.m.
An incident team will be on the scene at least until the early morning hours. Metra officials are hopeful that inbound traffic will be cleared for the Friday morning commute, but they aren't making any commitments.
The car is still wedged under the front of the cab car -- the end car -- and the train tracks are bent.
"The track that the train is on right now will have to be repaired. It'll have to be inspected," said Pardonnet.
She said the train's event recorder will be downloaded and reviewed to find out exactly how the collision occurred.
"We'll look at everything. We'll look at the signals. We'll look at the gates," she said.
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