1946 - TRAIN WRECK DEATH TOLL AT 43. ENGINEER CHARGED WITH MANSLAUGHTER.
Naperville, Ill., (AP) - Weary rescue workers Friday counted at least 43 dead in a terrific rear-end collision of the Burlington railroad's westbound fast Exposition Flyer and Advance Flyer Thursday.
Of 125 persons injured when the Exposition Flyer, speeding at more than 60 miles an hour toward San Francisco, rammed the stopped Advance Flyer, 31 remained in hospitals, some in critical condition. All but 5 of the dead had been identified.
The engineer of the Exposition Flyer, who Burlington railroad officials said had adequate warning that the preceding train had stopped, was charged with manslaughter. DuPage county officials said, however, this was a technicality to make certain the engineer would appear at an inquest and that no evidence of laxity had been uncovered.
The crash of the 2 steel car, diesel-powered trains occurred just 31 minutes after they left Chicago's Union station simultaneously at 12:35 p. m. CST on separate tracks, with the Advance Flyer, which ran on a faster schedule, in the lead.
The Advance Flyer, carrying 150 to 200 passengers in 9 coaches, was bound for Omaha and Lincoln, Nebr. The Exposition Flyer, made up of 11 coaches and carrying 175 to 200 persons, was headed for San Francisco.
Two minutes after the Advance Flyer made an unscheduled stop in this village of 5,287, a terrific crash roared through the countryside as the Exposition Flyer plowed into the rear of the stalled train.
A moment of tragic silence was broken by screams and cries for help from they dying and injured.
At first there was complete confusion. Huge, shining passenger coaches were strewn across torn tracks, some in tangled wreckage.
The cries of the dying came mostly from the rear coach of the Advance Flyer, where passengers were trapped. Others groped in bewilderment for escape from the mass of steel wreckage.
Eleven coaches were overturned or left the rails, 6 on the Advance Flyer and 5 on the Exposition Flyer.
Through the night, hours after the accident at 1:06 p.m. (CST), search continued for additional bodies. This was discontinued at dawn, however, when searchers were convinced all casualties had been accounted for.
Workers attempted to remove the debris and restore travel on the main line. An emergency line, however, was set up to allow through traffic.
As Burlington officials pursued their investigation of the worst accident in its history and also the most tragic in the Chicago area, State's Attorney LEE DANIELS of Du Page county said a warrant charging manslaughter had been issued for W. W. BLAINE, 68, Galesburg, Ill., engineer of the Exposition flyer.
DANIELS said the action was taken to insure BLAINE'S appearance at an inquest later into the deaths. DANIELS said he had interviewed members of the train crews and found no evidence of laxity.
The engineer suffered a skull fracture, the prosecuter said, and will not be arraigned on the manslaughter warrant for at least 2 weeks or until he is released from a hospital where he is under guard. His bond was fixed at $5,000.
DANIELS said that BLAINE, for more than 43 years a railroad man, told him that just before the collision Fireman E. H. CRAYTON warned him he was going to strike the Advance flyer. He said CRAYTON apparently jumped before the crash and was killed.
BLAINE, however, stayed at his throttle as his train sped toward the stalled Advance flyer. The Exposition flyer's silver nose plowed into the rear coach and for a fleeting moment appeared to stagger in the air, tear through the roof, then plunge with terrific force upon the floor and trucks of the car.
Its force was not spent, and it continued on through 3/ 4 of the length of the rear coach, ripping its top, spreading it wide, and inflicting death and injury to most of its occupants.
BLAINE suffered cuts on the head and was taken to an Aurora hospital.
DANIELS quoted the engineer as saying, "We were going too fast," and that his train was traveling 85 miles an hour when he noticed the first of 2 warning signals. The engineer applied the brakes at once, DANIELS said BLAINE related but "it was too late. How I came out alive, I'll never know."
At the station, JAMES TANGEY, flagman on the Advance flyer, left the rear coach and told passengers, "I'm going to stop that train behind us."
But before he had walked a dozen steps, the Exposition flyer roared toward the stalled train and, with brakes screeching and sparks flying from its wheels, struck the rear coach of the Advance flyer.
The diner ahead of the telescoped rear coach of the stalled train buckled under the impact and was torn into a heap of twisted steel and debris. The 3rd car from the end was half overturned and the 4th car was completely overturned.
The Red Cross quickly set up disaster relief headquarters at the scene and help came from all sides. Across the tracks, hundreds of workers in a furniture factory rushed to give aid. Fifty students at North Central college quit classes to serve as litter bearers. Uninjured passengers worked feverishly to render aid to the scores of victims.
In a few minutes, doctors, nurses and ambulances were racing to the scene from neighboring communities. Rescue lines were formed and a warehouse was converted into a temporary hospital where the injured were given first aid. The more serious cases were taken to hospitals in nearby Aurora.
EDWARD FLYNN, executive vice president of the railroad, said the automatic signal systems had been functioning property. The unscheduled stop by the Advance flyer was made when trouble developed in the undercarriage of the train, he said.
Investigations continued Friday, by the railroad, and by the Du Page county coroner and state's attorney.
Thousands of curious jammed highways and every street in Naperville during the afternoon and night. Hundreds remained in the early morning hours as workmen sought to clear the wreckage...
Mason City Globe-Gazette
April 26, 1946
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