The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has launched an investigation into the crash, which happened around 10:35 a.m. in the Howard Rail Yard near Howard Street and Chicago Avenue.
Officials with the Chicago Fire Department said 38 people – 31 civilians and seven Chicago Transit Authority workers – were onboard the train at the time of the collision.
Fifteen passengers declined medical treatment, while 23 others were taken to area hospitals.
According to Chicago fire officials, the victims’ conditions range in severity, with at least three people in critical condition; however, everyone is expected to survive.
On Thursday morning, the Skokie Swift was traveling southbound and approaching its final stop when it struck the back of a diesel-powered snow removal device, which was on the same track. The orange-colored plow had also been moving, only at a much slower pace.
"When I arrived on the scene, we had the fire companies and the EMS companies in the train engines triaging and beginning to move the patients from the train," said Asst. Deputy Chief Paramedic Keith Gray with the Chicago Fire Department. "Head injuries, bumps, bruises."
However, getting to the victims was challenging.
"Had a little trouble getting down to the train due to the terrain and the downhill," said Gray.
"They had to go up and down these embankments carrying these people," said Chief Robert Jurewicz, 2nd District, Chicago Fire Department. "We chained out all the tracks, made sure the power was off, evacuated all the civilians to EMS."
Officials said four children were on the train at the time of the crash. The victims are between the ages of 2 and 75 years old.
A CTA Yellow Line Train struck rail equipment leaving 19 injured. Photo courtesy of Chicago Fire Media
The train’s operator was among the most seriously hurt, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Alderwoman Maria Hadden (49th Ward), who represents part of the city where the crash occurred, said the conductor may have experienced a medical emergency just prior to the crash, but police and fire officials have not confirmed that information.
"Even coming up the road, there were police officers everywhere," said Katelyn Davis, who witnessed the aftermath. "We take that train all the time, it could have been easily us, so we’re just hoping everyone’s ok."
As passengers were led off the train, some were brought into a triage center lined with stretchers to be assessed, with at least one seen bleeding heavily from the head.
At least 15 ambulances were dispatched to the scene.
"Saw some first responders bringing out some stretches, sure enough they did end up bringing back some of the pedestrians I saw getting off the train," said Sam Wright, witness.
Wright lives nearby and saw the crash unfold from his 12th floor window.
"All of the sudden, I heard a pretty loud noise, went over to my balcony, looked out the window and sure enough, a CTA train crashed into what looked like another train of some sort," said Wright. "It was pretty loud, it actually echoed because I believe it was under the bridge."
Another witness, Shayla Smith, who was headed to work in Wilmette had just boarded a Purple Line train at Howard when she heard the collision. She said passengers on her train began screaming, and she saw an elderly woman nearly fall out of her seat.
"I just heard like a horrible boom sound," she told the Sun-Times. "It was like a weird boom sound. It felt like we’re gonna tip over and I was wondering what’s going on? My body shivered."
Within hours of the crash, one of the passengers filed a lawsuit against the CTA and is suing for negligence.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker posted on X, formerly Twitter, following the incident.
"My administration is closely monitoring the train derailment on the North Side and will direct any available resources needed. Thank you to the CFD firefighters and first responders on the scene," Pritzker said.
Mayor Brandon Johnson also released 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," said Johnson.
CTA officials said the cause of the crash remains under investigation.
"The National Transportation Safety Board announced they will be leading this investigation. Right now, our focus is on the customers and CTA employees who were injured in this incident. The CTA worked closely with the Chicago Fire Department on the emergency response. For the investigation, CTA intends to cooperate fully with the NTSB," said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr.
Purple and Red Line service was temporarily suspended following the crash, but returned to operation Thursday evening.
Yellow Line service remains suspended Friday morning.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.