A head-on collision between a passenger vehicle and a Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) bus proved fatal for all four of the occupants of the passenger vehicle, and resulted in injures for five people aboard the public bus. Speed and alcohol are being investigated as possible factors in the bus crash in Chicago, one of the country's busiest public transit systems, though concerns have been raised about bus safety on CTA vehicles given the number of accidents the agency has been involved in recent years.
Early Morning Bus Accident on Madison Street
The Chicago bus crash occurred early on the morning of Sunday, May 7, 2017 on Chicago's west side in the Garfield Park neighborhood. A #20 Madison Street CTA bus was traveling east on Madison with passengers aboard when it was hit by a Buick LeSabre that was traveling west.
According to police, the Buick, which was driven by 27-year-old Bernard Chatman and had three passengers inside, was speeding at the time of the accident and hit a parked car before losing control and hitting the oncoming CTA bus head-on.
The Chicago Police Department’s major-incident unit responded to the incident, as well as the Chicago Fire Department.
Photos from the scene show the Buick crumpled and burnt almost beyond recognition. Inside, witnesses say the occupants were pinned while the car began to catch fire.
It would be several hours before normal bus service on the #20 route would resume.
Driver and Three Passengers Pronounced Dead in Chicago Bus Crash
Once emergency personnel arrived at the accident scene, they were able to extricate the driver and three passengers from the Buick.
Chatman, who had been driving the vehicle, and 23-year-old Erica Williams, a passenger, were taken to Stroger Hospital, where both were pronounced dead from their injuries, according to Chicago Police and the Cook County medical examiner's office.
Twenty-five-year old Ashley Moore and 22-year-old Tycika Fairley, who were also passengers in the Buick, were both taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where they were also pronounced dead.
According to a family member who identified them, Fairley and Moore were sisters, and both were parents. Fairley had two children and Moore had three, but, the family member says, Fairley was pregnant at the time of the crash. Chatman also had a daughter.
Five Injured on CTA Bus
The damage to the CTA bus was much less than that of the Buick, but the impact from the head-on collision was still severe enough to send the bus driver and three passengers aboard the bus to area hospitals for treatment.
Police say two people from the bus were taken to Rush University Medical Center and Presence Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center and were listed in serious condition. Two more from the bus were taken to St. Mary's, but were listed in good condition. It is believed that a fifth passenger was treated at the scene.
None of the injuries sustained by people on the bus are thought to be life-threatening.
Witnesses Tried to Pull Victims from Vehicle
At the site of the bus crash, some witnesses worked to aid victims while others captured images and video that were then posted to social media.
Witnesses who live nearby heard the crash and hurried to the scene, where others were already doing what they could to free the occupants of the Buick.
"I heard the tire skid and then I heard the impact," Jbria Demery said in an interview with ABC7. "When I came outside, I just saw a bunch of the neighborhood people trying to open up the doors of the car but they couldn’t get them open. The driver of the car was partially hanging out the window."
Another witness, Malinda Demery, said that fire inside the car impeded rescue efforts.
"My neighbor went over and tried to pull the driver out, but the car was burning so bad and there was so much smoke he had to stop trying and then the fire department came and did what they did," Malinda Demery said, also speaking with ABC7.
Malinda Demery then turned her attention to those aboard the bus.
"The bus driver got off the bus and was fine," Demery said to NBC Chicago. "She was shaken up, but she was able to walk and talk."
Bernard Crowder, another witness to the Chicago bus crash, recalled the panic of trying to rescue those pinned inside the Buick.
"It was really bad. I ain’t never seen anything like this in all my life," Crowder said in an interview with NBC Chicago. "We were trying to get the doors to open up, but it was too much. There was nothing we could do."
Investigation into Chicago Bus Crash Ongoing
For now, the Chicago Police's Major Accidents Investigation Unit continues to investigate the accident with help from the CTA, which is also reviewing surveillance from on board the bus.
When making an initial statement on the Chicago bus crash, police said the Buick was traveling at a "high rate of speed," and that will likely be listed as a factor in the crash. Officials are also investigating the role that alcohol played, as alcohol was found inside the vehicle. It is unknown, however, whether the alcohol was opened, and toxicology reports will be used to determine further details.
In the last five years, there have been 1,058 collisions reported between CTA buses and other motor vehicles, according to an NBC report. Another report, done by ABC in 2015, suggested that an accident involving a CTA bus occurs every 36 hours.
Not all bus accidents involving CTA buses are the fault of CTA drivers or vehicles, but from 2015 to 2016 the CTA paid approximately $16 million to resolve lawsuits in which plaintiffs alleged the agency was liable.