Trisha Shetty

1950 CTA Streetcar Crash

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Date  May 25, 1950
Country  United States
Type of incident  Collision
Location  Chicago, Illinois
Rail line  Green Hornet Streetcar
Cause  Driver error
1950 CTA Streetcar Crash

The 1950 CTA Streetcar Crash, also known as the Green Hornet Streetcar Disaster, occurred on May 25, 1950, when a Chicago Transit Authority streetcar collided with a gasoline truck. The resulting explosion killed 34 people and injured 50 others, remaining one of the most deadly public transit disasters in Chicago history.

Contents

Crash

The collision occurred around 6:30pm on May 25, 1950. The accident happened at the intersection of 63rd and State Street, killing and injuring people in the two vehicles and the surrounding area.

The streetcar was headed south on State Street but suddenly switched eastbound to avoid a flooded underpass. “Apparently, the motorman of the streetcar was not paying attention, and went through that switch at total velocity, and hit the side of that truck with dire consequences,” said Craig Cleve, author of the book The Green Hornet Streetcar Disaster. The gasoline truck jackknifed after the collision and blocked State Street 200 feet north of 63rd Street. The driver of the truck, Mel Wilson, died in the cab of the truck while the conductor of the streetcar, William C. Lidell, survived.

Consequences

34 people died in the streetcar while 50 people, some on the streetcar and others in the surrounding area, were injured. According to the National Safety Council’s report two days after the crash, it was the largest death toll from a motor vehicle collision, surpassing the 29 people killed in a 1940 Texas train-truck collision. Some victims were identified immediately because of personal belongings whereas other victims were identified at the Cook County Morgue by friends and relatives in the days following the crash.

In addition to the lives lost, nearby buildings and parked cars were consumed by the flames. Five buildings were completely destroyed on the east side of State Street between the 6239 and 6247 addresses. The total property damage was estimated to be around $150,000 (estimated to be $1,502,663.90 in 2016). William C. Liddell, the streetcar conductor, disappeared after the crash but was arrested the day after, charged with leaving the scene of the accident.

Aftermath

In 1955, the Chicago Transit Authority claimed it paid a total of $900,000 to families of the deceased. The accident was highly investigated, drawing conclusions as to what could prevent another such catastrophe. Among them were the addition of drainage systems for frequently flooded underpasses so operators would not have to detour, two yearly physical examinations of motormen and streetcar doors that could remain open in case of an emergency to allow for evacuation. However, in 1958 the CTA elected to stop using streetcars entirely. They were replaced by bus routes that still run today.

References

1950 CTA Streetcar Crash Wikipedia


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