Chicago train jumps platform at O'Hare airport, injuring 30

Chicago train jumps platform at O'Hare airport, injuring 30
A Chicago Transit Authority train carrying passengers to O'Hare International Airport derailed early Monday, landing partially atop an escalator. More than 30 people were hurt, but the injuries were not considered life-threatening. (Kenneth Webster / NBC Chicago)

CHICAGO — A Chicago Transit Authority operator may have fallen asleep shortly before a train jumped the platform at O'Hare International Airport on Monday and became partially wedged atop an escalator at the end of the line, according to her union representative.

Reports from the scene indicate the driver, whose name has not been released, told people she nodded off moments before the crash, said Robert Kelly, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308.


"I can confirm that she was extremely tired," Kelly said. "Indications are she might have dozed off."

More than 30 people were hurt in the crash, though none of the injuries were considered life-threatening.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident, which has temporarily halted commuter rail service to one of the country's busiest airports. The transit authority is shuttling passengers to the airport by bus from another stop along the city's Blue Line.

The eight-car train remained wedged over the airport escalator late Monday as federal investigators tried to determine how fast it had been going when the crash occurred. Though the escalator suffered significant damage, the adjacent stairs and the structure beneath appeared intact.

"The train is not going to go anywhere for the foreseeable future," said Tim DePaepe, a railroad accident investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board. "We need to examine the train and the position it's in prior to its movement."

The crash occurred about 2:50 a.m. Monday, during one of the station's lightest traffic times. Passenger Milka Overton counted only three people in her car as it approached the station.

The 26-year-old Transportation Security Administration worker said she stood up as the train pulled into the terminal and waited for the doors to open so she could begin her work day. But the train seemed to speed up at the last minute, Overton said. She recalled a boom as the train went completely dark and she was flung across the car.

"Oh, Jesus, I got tossed so bad," Overton said after being discharged from the hospital. "I got tossed from one end of the train to the other end of the train."

Most of the injured passengers were treated for minor injuries and released.

The train operator remained hospitalized after suffering minor leg injuries. She reported to work about 8:45 p.m. Sunday, but officials refused to provide any other information about her employment history.

Federal authorities will be looking into the operator's work schedule, her activities in the week before the crash and her medical background, DePaepe said. The operator also underwent routine drug and alcohol testing.