NTSB on CTA Crash: “The Train is Not Going to Go Anywhere”

National Transportation Safety Board takes over investigation of CTA crash at O'Hare International Airport

Commuters won't have access to the Chicago Transit Authority's Blue Line station at O'Hare International Airport before Tuesday afternoon.

"The train is not going to go anywhere for the foreseeable future. It's not going anywhere today," National Transportation Safety Board signal specialist Tim DePaepe said during a press briefing with reporters. "We're sensitive to the service needs of the CTA but we have to do our documentation first." 

By midday Monday, crews hadn't even begun the process of removing the eight-car train that jumped the tracks and came to rest on the escalators leading to the airport terminals hours earlier. Nor had they really even begun the process of determining what happened.

"Before we allow people to examine the train, we want to make sure they don't get injured in the process of doing their work," DePaepe said. "They're putting supports up to make sure the train doesn't move. We want to photo-document everything before we move anything so we don't disturb anything."

Thirty-two people received minor injuries in the early-morning crash. By noon, most of them had been released from the hospital. Still in the hospital, however, was the operator of the train -- a female motorman who began her shift at about 8:40 p.m. Sunday.

"When she is released, we will make arrangements to interview her and find out what happened from her point of view," DePaepe said.

Six investigators covering several areas of expertise -- operations, mechanics, signaling, the track, and human factors -- would be looking into the incident. That would include looking at video from the station and from a front-end, outward facing camera aboard the train. Additionally, data from "event recorders" in the CTA's signaling system would be subject to review. The signal data should help provide information about how fast the train was going when it entered one of the station's three train pockets.

"I've investigated many accidents, and many trains do different things. It's all about kinetic forces," said DePaepe. "I have not seen an accident like this personally but that doesn't mean it hasn't happened."

CTA President Forrest Claypool said the shuttle buses put in place between the Rosemont and O'Hare stations immediately after the crash were working on a frequent schedule and that the rest of the Blue Line was operating smoothly.

"Obviously, safety is our highest priority at the CTA, and we run half a million train trips a year. When something like this happens we want to work closely with our engineers and theirs to get to the very bottom of this as fast as we can," he said.

When it comes time for crews to remove the train from the station, officials said they'll use torches to cut the wreckage apart.

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