(Chicago, Illinois – September 2, 2012)
Residents of the Chicago southwest side Ashburn neighborhood received a rude wake-up call early Sunday morning at about 1:50 A.M. after one CSX freight train collided with the rear of a second train and knocked derailed cars into a third CSX train on an adjacent track, causing a temporary hazardous material alert and cessation of electrical power for residents of about 2,500 area homes.
CSX officials were still sorting out the “who hit whom” details, but what was known was that three trains were involved, including a 13-car train originating in Nashville, TN and pulled by two locomotives, a 93-car train from Albany, NY, powered by four locomotives, and a 130-car train pulled by two locomotives and originating in Flint, MI. All three trains were destined for Chicago, IL.
A total of eight freight cars and two locomotives were derailed in the chain-reaction accident, with one car sliding down an embankment and into the backyard of Ernie Pentek, who woke up to loud sounds, followed by an explosion when the sliding car struck a power pole where a transformer was located.
“We’ve lived her for 30 some years, never had it happen, never thought it would happen. A lot of trains pass through here. We never thought it would happen,” rambled the shocked Pentek.
“We heard a big crash and saw a bright flash that lit up all our windows,” recalled Wantan Montgomery, Pentek’s next door neighbor. “Then we went out and saw train cars had knocked the transformer down, and containers were piled up in our neighbor’s yard.”
The Chicago Fire Dept. issued a Level 1 hazardous materials response alarm as a precaution because one rail car was hauling soil contaminated with low levels of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB), a cancer-causing material banned by the EPA since 1979, but such was cancelled once it was determined railroad and contract hazmat crews had secured and removed the 200 pounds of spilled carcinogenic material.