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Chicago L-Station Nightmare

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Chicago ILRush hour, downtown Chicago, on a Friday afternoon - the perfect setting for a major truck accident. And that's just what happened on Friday, April 25, 2008, when a renegade tractor-trailer rig plowed into the Cermak/Chinatown Chicago Transit Authority L-station killing two women and injuring a further 21 innocent bystanders.

The tractor-trailer reportedly came down the Dan Ryan Expressway, doing at least 50 miles per hour, according to witnesses at the scene, and proceeded to mow people down at the bus stop outside the L-station. It then continued on into the L-station escalator, where it literally came to a screeching halt.

Rush Hour AccidentWitnesses at the scene reported hearing grinding metal and screeching sounds followed by a very loud boom as the tractor-trailer crashed into the escalator and 'climbed the stairs' as one witness put it.

The driver of the semi, a middle-aged male identified as Don Wells, was also injured in the crash, however he was able to walk away from the wreck. In what would be the first of series of odd events surrounding this case, the driver of the truck was taken to Stroger hospital and given blood tests, which revealed no sign of alcohol. However, Wells refused a urine test, and against the advice of the doctors all further tests except a CT scan.

Later that same evening, the police took Wells away in handcuffs for further questioning. "We are investigating everything," said Chicago Police Sgt. Maurice McCaster of the major accidents unit.

Wells' continued to behave in a strange manner at the police station. Having had his clothes confiscated at the station, he refused the paper garments given him by the police, and instead remained naked in his cell, using the floor of his cell as a urinal. On Sunday night, he was issued a ticket for negligent driving and released from custody. This, after the truck he was driving killed Eloisa Guerrero, 47, and Delisia Brown, 18, of Metamora, Mich, who were waiting for the bus outside the L. Wells was then taken to another hospital where he remained in the Emergency ward for the entire day.

This is curious case by any standard. The evidence at the scene indicates no skid marks, which the investigators believe may indicate brake failure or malfunction. Or worse, Wells simply didn't use them. Needless to say, the truck is being examined for mechanical problems.

Another noteworthy piece of evidence is the presence of prescription drugs on the truck driver at the time of the accident. Those drugs, however, were from another person's prescription.

As part of the ongoing investigation, the police are planning to interview other truckers about legal and over-the-counter drugs truckers take to stay awake.

Large trucks can weigh more than 70,000 lbs. According to the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), nearly 5,000 deaths occur every year as a result of tractor-trailer accidents. This means that nearly 12 percent of all traffic deaths in the United States are caused by big truck accidents.

Some of the common causes of truck accidents include:
Driver fatigue
Debris on the road
Brake failure
Speeding and failure to pay attention to the rules of the road
Tire failure or separation
Driving under influence of drugs or alcohol
Unsecured cargo or shifting of freight
Unsafe driving
Blind spots

One of the survivors of the accident has retained legal help. It appears that the truck company, Whiteline Express, may not be innocent, with its drivers having notched up 41 accidents over the past 30 months, including one fatality and 15 injuries. These figures are exclusive of Friday's accident. According to prior lawsuit records reported by a local radio station, a safety officer at Whiteline said she had found 923 falsified driver's logs from 2004 to 2006, with a further 691 driver logs missing.


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