Minor Injuries in Union Station Train Collision

Switching error may have led to the collision

A low-speed train collision near Union Station Friday morning sent 12 passengers to area hospitals. 

Amtrak train No. 391 collided with Burlington Northern Metra Train 1242 around 8:20 a.m. at a turn in the tracks near Polk and Harrison, said Assistant Deputy Fire Commissioner John McNicholas.

McNicholas confirmed that 12 people were taken to area hospitals, none of them in critical condition. Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said the injuries included at least one broken ribs injury and mostly bumps and bruises.

"The jolt sent people kind of moving forward at a rapid speed," McNicholas said.

The trains were traveling in separate directions, and "at some point they came into contact," he said. A source told NBCChicago that investigators are looking into a switching error as a cause.

The collision forced the Metra train's first two cars to derail. Passengers said they felt two large bumps, one after the other.

"The train hit the brakes, and then it hit the brakes again, so a lot of people went flying and were injured," said passenger Virginia Watkins, riding toward the front of the Metra train. "I'm a little shaken. I was standing up, and I felt like I was swinging around the pole.

"We felt a bump like we rolled over something, and then the train slammed to a halt," said Barbara Stroll, a passenger in the Metra train's third car, in an email to NBCChicago. "When they took us off the train, the first two cars looked like they were off the track."

Stroll said it felt like the train was hit from behind. She heard someone ask for a doctor in the first car, but she didn't see anyone in her car who appeared to be injured.

Between 50 and 75 fire personnel responded to the incident along with 10 fire companies and ambulances, McNicholas said. Hundreds of passengers were evacuated from the trains and hundreds more were stuck on trains backed up behind the collision.

"Passengers who were self-evacuated did a tremendous job," said Marc Levison, the Chicago Fire Department's assistant deputy fire commissioner for EMS. "They were all calm."

Some of the first passengers off delayed Amtrak trains were frustrated about the lack of information. They told NBCChicago that passengers seemed to know more than their train conductors about the incident thanks to news reports on their phones.

All Metra trains entering and leaving the South side of Union Station were halted. Service is expected to be back to normal by evening rush hour, according to a letter posted on Metra's website by Executive Director Alex Clifford. Midday service will be affected by the investigation.

"Our thoughts and well wishes are with the injured," Clifford said.

"We apologize for the delays and thank everyone for their patience."

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