Fatigue a Factor in Chicago Train Derailment

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“That was a lucky break,” he said. “A train hitting a wall at … high speed could easily have been fatal for many.”

The injured were treated at area hospitals and released. Chicago Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago said Monday morning that most were able to walk away from the wreck unaided.

Investigators will review video footage from a camera in the O’Hare station and one that was mounted on the front of the train, DePaepe said. The train will remain at the scene until the NTSB has finished some of its investigation, after which crews will remove the train and fix the damaged escalator.

CTA spokesman Brian Steele said earlier Monday the train may have been moving too fast as it approached the station and didn’t stop at a bumping post — a metal shock absorber at the end of the tracks.

Fatigue or temporary inattention have been raised as possible factors in other commuter train accidents.

In December’s train derailment that killed four people in New York, representatives of the operating engineer have said he may have lost focus at the controls in a momentary daze. A preliminary report did not mention that issue, saying excessive speed appeared to be a factor.

That accident highlighted the lack of crash-avoidance systems, or “positive train control,” which uses GPS, wireless radio and computers to monitor a train’s position. It lets dispatchers halt engines remotely if they speed or blow through stop signals.

It’s not clear such a pricey system could have helped prevent Monday’s derailment in Chicago.

“There are systems that do stop trains,” DePaepe said. “But it is usually about money. The transit agencies do the best they can.”

Monday’s accident occurred almost six months after an unoccupied Blue Line train rumbled down a track for nearly a mile and struck another train head-on at the other end of the line in September. Dozens were hurt in that incident, which prompted the CTA to make several safety changes.

While the station is closed, the CTA will bus passengers to and from O’Hare to the next station on the line.

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