Our Chicago CTA accident attorneys are not surprised that three days after the massive bus accident that captured Chicagoland’s full attention, the CTA continues to withhold any explanation as to what caused the crash.
The accident occurred on Saturday, on the No. 6 Jackson Park Express bus at Lake Shore Drive near McCormick Place, and involved a single vehicle – a CTA bus carrying seventy passengers, including children and disabled patrons. The bus jumped the curb at an estimated forty miles per hour and kept right on going. The bus, one of the CTA’s articulated buses (a bus of double length with a connector in the center), then proceeded to plow into around 15 or 20 trees. The bus finally came to a stop after striking a larger tree, approximately a foot and a half in diameter. This was a fortunate stop, as the bus was only a few feet from the drop-off of a retaining wall when it finally came to rest.
Inside the bus, chaos reigned. Passengers further back in the bus related that their first sign of a problem was hearing passengers near the front “freaking out” and saying things such as “Oh, God.” After the bus jumped the curb, passengers were tossed about, falling out of their seats and all over one another. Some passengers stated that they cushioned each other, preventing more serious injuries. However, this naturally did not do enough to allay the injuries associated with such an accident.
In fact, after the bus came to a stop, at least twenty ambulances were rushed to the scene to treat the injured. All told, thirty-seven passengers were hospitalized. Most of these, however, were “minor” injuries as described by the Chicago Fire Department Emergency Medical Services: such “minor” injuries include contusions, fractured bones, and back and neck injuries. Four passengers, however, were hospitalized in critical or serious condition. And approximately ten to twelve passengers had injuries severe enough to prevent them from leaving the bus after it finally came to a stop.
In light of the publicity this crash has garnered, the CTA bus accident attorneys of Passen & Powell are not surprised that no one has yet provided any proposed explanation for the crash — and has gone into “CYA” mode. The bus driver, who was not seriously injured in the crash, was to be given “standard” drug and alcohol tests by the CTA – but three days later, the results of those tests have not been released. The CTA also stated that it would be looking at the bus’ mechanical systems and its black box – and although we would expect those investigations to take longer than a standard drug and alcohol test, certain causes should have been immediately or quickly eliminated.
Yet nothing, not even preliminary findings, has yet been reported. Nor has the available videotape of the accident been released. Every CTA bus is outfitted with a video camera. The CTA has stated that the tape from this bus will be studied, but has not released the tape to the media. Although the CTA has stated that the video contradicts a passenger statement that a passenger had grabbed the wheel in an attempt to control the bus, it has provided no further details from the tape.
The driver herself has given a statement to the drivers’ union, which in turn released portions of that statement to the public. In it, the driver indicated her belief that the power steering system on the bus had failed. She states that she struggled to control the bus, but failed. But the bus driver also told union officials that after the bus jumped the curb, she “may have” then pressed the accelerator by mistake, a good explanation for why the bus continued for so long before finally being stopped by a large tree.
The union, which has not had access to the bus, its black box or videotape, has already provided its explanation of the crash: mechanical failure. And the union has lost no time in laying blame at the feet of the CTA for failure to keep on schedule with preventative maintenance for CTA buses, and the failure to fill vacant mechanic positions in the organization. The bus that crashed, however, which was purchased in 2008, was still under warranty, and the union did not provide evidence of maintenance failures on that particular bus. Still, the CTA has not yet released the bus’ maintenance records (in spite of its statement that the bus is under warranty).
Our Chicago bus accident attorneys urge the CTA to make the information that it has available to the public, and to conduct an open investigation into the accident and its causes. With an event of this magnitude, there is no excuse for withholding information from the public and the press: we, and especially the victims of this crash, have the right to know everything the CTA is learning – from the videotape to the results of the driver’s drug and alcohol tests to the preliminary analysis of the bus’ steering system. Perhaps, if the CTA acts openly and honorably in its investigation, it can maintain the public confidence at this difficult time.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago CTA accident lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.