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Chicago truck crashes into station

Semi’s deadly crash into Chicago station probed

Associated Press Writer Karen Hawkins wrote the following regarding an April 25, 2008 wreck:

CHICAGO – Elliott Reed said the scene was surreal: As he walked toward the Chicago Transit Authority train station in the midst of an otherwise normal, busy rush hour, a tractor trailer exiting a nearby expressway made a sudden and violent detour.

Without warning, the truck barreled into a street-level bus shelter, ending part of the way up the station’s north stairwell. Two women died on the scene and at least 21 others were injured, authorities said.

Reed and other witnesses stood disbelieving as the truck wedged inside the stairwell. If it hadn’t been for a delay at work, Reed, a 30-year-old bank security officer, said he could have been one of the victims.

The Chicago Police Department was still investigating the crash at the Cermak-Chinatown Red Line station on Saturday. That investigation included questioning the truck’s driver, who initially went to a hospital but was released and led from the hospital in handcuffs.

The 51-year-old man tested negative for blood alcohol at the hospital, but refused a urinalysis test, said Stroger Hospital spokesman Sean Howard.

The man was not under arrest or had been charged with anything as of late Friday, said police spokesman John Mirabelli.

“We are talking to the driver, that is the extent of it to this time,” Mirabelli said.

Police did not identify the driver and could not immediately confirm details of the crash.

“Right now this is just a tragic traffic accident,” said Chicago Police Department Deputy Chief Joseph Patterson.

Twenty-one people were transported to area hospitals, Langford said. Eleven were in critical condition, including four children, eight adults were in stable condition and two adults were in good condition, said fire department spokesman Larry Langford.

“This is rush hour so it’s bad,” Langford said Friday.

Most of those injured were either in the bus shelter underneath the elevated train station or in the stairwell of the station, said fire department spokeswoman Eve Rodriguez. The two women killed were dead on the scene, she said.

The Cook County medical examiner’s office said autopsies for the two women were scheduled for Saturday morning.

The truck didn’t appear to slow down before ramming into the stairs, witnesses said.

Reed was walking on the street when he “heard the big bang and saw the truck go right into the station.”

Reed said he and others on the street were “stunned,” asking each other, “Did you see what just happened?”

The intersection has a risky reputation because the traffic lights there change quickly, said Meekus Wong, who works at a restaurant located directly in front of the train station.

“That was always a very dangerous intersection because the traffic lights switch really fast,” she said.

“I was supposed to take the train. Thank God I took the bus,” she said.

The logo on the side of the white truck read “XTRA Lease” in red letters. A phone message left after business hours with XTRA Lease of St. Louis, Mo., was not immediately returned. The company’s Web site says it leases trucks to drivers on a short-term basis.

Engineers determined there was no structural damage to the overhead station, but the stairs sustained “very significant damage,” said CTA President Ron Huberman. Trains on the Red Line, which runs to the city’s far South Side from downtown, will not stop at the station until further notice, he said.

The station is about two miles south of downtown, just blocks from the city’s Chinatown neighborhood and is located near two major expressways, Interstate 55 and Interstate 90/94.