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Two dozen taken to hospitals after commuter train crashes into snow plow in Chicago

Deanese Williams-Harris, Sarah Freishtat, Rebecca Johnson, Alex Hulvalchick | Chicago Tribune

Nearly two dozen people were taken to the hospital after a CTA Yellow Line train struck a piece of agency equipment on the tracks Thursday morning near the border of Evanston and Chicago, according to the Chicago Fire Department.

Thirty-eight people were seen by paramedics, including seven CTA employees, Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said. Of those, 23 were taken to the hospital in varying conditions, including four children, he said.

Three people were in serious-to-critical condition, but their injuries were not believed to be life threatening, Langford said. One of the injured CTA employees was the operator of the train, who was seriously injured, and two others were on the snow plow, said Eric Dixon, president of the union that represents CTA’s train employees.

Around 10:35 a.m., a two-car Yellow Line train that was carrying passengers rounded a curve and hit a snow plow moving in the same direction on the same track, about 300 yards from the Howard station, fire department officials said. The Yellow Line train, also called a Skokie Swift, was moving at a normal speed, but the snow plow was moving slower, he said.

Workers and pedestrians near the station said they heard the loud crash when the train and snow plow collided.

Ketan Patel, who works nearby, heard a “very big boom” at about 10:30 a.m. He said he immediately left the back office in the Evanston Mart, initially thinking one of the gas pumps outside had exploded.

”I got scared, started running out,” Patel, the store’s manager, said.

About five minutes later he saw what he thought to be nearly 50 ambulance, police and fire vehicles rushing to crash site, located just a few minutes from the store.

CTA did not immediately respond to a request for comment about how the train struck the snow plow.

The Howard station serves the Red, Yellow and Purple lines. More than three hours after the crash, train service on the Yellow line remained suspended, CTA said. The Red and Purple line had just resumed normal service.

The crash drew responses from Chicago and Illinois elected officials, and the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday afternoon it was sending a team to investigate the collision.

“My administration is closely monitoring the train derailment on the North Side and will direct any available resources needed,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker posted on X, previously known as Twitter. “Thank you to the CFD firefighters and first responders on the scene.”

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson said in a statement, “Our thoughts are with all affected and we are grateful for our brave first responders on the scene. We are working closely with emergency services as we continue to monitor this incident.”

Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who represents the area, also issued a statement.

“This is horrible news. My team and I are closely monitoring the situation unfolding following the CTA Yellow Line train crash near the Howard Station,” she said on X. “Thank you to all the first responders. I’m sending love and well wishes to all those who were injured.”

The Yellow Line runs between the Howard station, at the border of Chicago and Evanston, and Skokie. Two of its three stations are in Skokie, and many of the train’s riders hail from the suburb, taking the train south to access the Red Line and Chicago.

“Our hearts go out to everyone involved,” said Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen. “I hope everyone involved is going to recover and be OK,” he added.

The crash is the latest challenge for CTA, which has faced complaints about unreliable service, conditions on trains and buses and concerns about personal safety in recent years.

In 2014, when a Blue Line train pulling into the station at O’Hare International Airport crashed through a barrier at the end of the tracks and landed on top of an escalator after the rookie operator dozed off. The crash injured more than 30 people and caused roughly $11 million in damages, and lead to operational changes at the CTA, including lowering the speed limit for trains approaching the O’Hare platform.

The following year, an embankment along the Yellow Line collapsed during a neighboring construction project, and Skokie Swift service was halted for 5 1/2 months.

Also Thursday morning, a CTA bus was also involved in an unrelated crash. The bus was rear-ended by a van near the intersection of Roosevelt and Columbus downtown, Langford said. The driver of the van was taken to the hospital in critical condition. Three other people were also taken to the hospital, and Langford said preliminary information indicated they were likely also in the van.

This story is developing. Visit the Chicago Tribune for updates.

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