In another recent Chicago train accident, last month two cars hit a stopped train on the South Side, close to Halsted and 90th. The train, which had been traveling East, was stopped on the tracks at around 3:00 a.m. when two cars collided with it, one from each side. One car became wedged under the train, the other hit a connecter between two cars. Four people were injured in the accident. Although all survived, all four had to be hospitalized for varying lengths of time at Stroger and Christ hospitals.
Those who live and work in the Chicago area have become accustomed to the regular, periodic reports of collisions between automobiles and trains — especially those injured at dangerous railroad crossings. Many of these accidents hardly catch our notice, as they are the result of careless, wanton drivers attempting to beat a train or ignoring a signal.
But this accident falls into another category of accident, one which occurs less frequently but regularly, as well: accidents that occur when the gates and safety signals designed to protect motorists and pedestrians are inoperative.
In this case, the train’s engineer reportedly noticed that the crossing lights were inoperative, then complied with federal “stop and flag” rules by stopping the train and putting out flares to warn approaching motorists of the train’s presence. The victims, however, reported that they did not see any flares as they approached the tracks.
Unfortunately, compliance with federal “stop and flag” rules turned out to be the more dangerous course in this case. As federal investigators have now concluded, only these particular safety signals were malfunctioning (as a result of the buildup of road salt from the winter snows, which had caused interference with the electrical circuits needed to power the signals). Thus proceeding through the intersection may have been the safer course.
Moreover, stopping the train left a pitch-black tanker car parked across the road, with no visible lights or warning signals. The accident occurred in the early morning hours, when a black train car was nearly impossible to see. Even local Fire Department Deputy Chief Arriel Gray, one of the emergency officials who responded, noted that due to the disabled lights, the fire department also had difficulty seeing the black train car.
In spite of the unfortunate result, our experience Chicago train injury attorneys certainly do not blame the engineer for complying, or at least attempting to comply, with the applicable federal rules. But we are suspicious of how the circumstances leading to the accident came to pass at all.
Locals reported that the gates and signals at this location had actually been malfunctioning for several months at the time of the accident. Thus, proper precautions and responses by any number of individuals could have prevented the accident.
For example, had regular maintenance or checks been occurring, the problem could have been caught and corrected. Likewise, it is inconceivable that this was the first train to pass through this busy intersection in months. If even one prior train had noticed the nonfunctioning signals and followed the federally-mandated “stop and flag” policy – or at least reported the malfunction – the the problem would have been corrected long before this accident occurred.
The failure of multiple train operators to report this problem over the course of several months is almost certainly negligence. Our Chicago train accident lawyers are appalled at the lack of concern shown by the railroad and its officials. Fortunately, their negligence did not result in any deaths – this time. We hope that the victims will hold the railroad accountable, and that the railroad will thereby take greater precautions in the future. Because next time, the victims may not be so lucky.
For a Free Consultation with a top-rated Illinois railroad injury attorney at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.