|On May 25, 1950, Chicago experienced one of its worst traffic accidents when a streetcar collided with a gas tanker truck. Thirty-four people died. — Chicago Tribune historical photo|
|A scene from the May 25, 1950, Green Hornet streetcar crash. — Chicago Tribune historical photo|
Whether the streetcar driver or the streetcar itself was at fault is unclear, but the Green Hornet did not slow down. As it approached the turn at approximately 30 mph, the streetcar derailed as it hit a Mack truck hauling 8,000 gallons of gasoline.
The gasoline tanker truck, carrying thousands of gallons of gasoline, 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.
|Two parked cars are hosed by firemen after the blaze at 6251 State Street. By most accounts, the streetcar was going too fast for the wet conditions. — Chicago Tribune historical photo|
|A battered watch carried by one of the streetcar crash victims showed the time of the disaster. It stopped at 6:33 on May 26, 1950. — Chicago Tribune historical photo|
|A priest gives last rites to the victims on May 25, 1950, when a Green Hornet streetcar collided with a fuel truck. It was a grim task to identifying bodies as there wasn't much to go on: burned clothes, melted shoes, a ring, bits of toys, remnants of a letter from a young woman planning her wedding. — Dante Mascione, Chicago Tribune|
|This shell was what remained of the Green Hornet streetcar after searing flames from gasoline spilled from a tanker truck destroyed it and killed its human cargo. — Chicago Tribune historical photo|
|A general view on May 26, 1950, of the scene north of 63rd and State Streets where a streetcar and gasoline truck collided the day before, killing 34 people. The streetcar was being switched into a "turnaround" because of flooded conditions of an underpass beneath a viaduct from which this picture was taken. The arrows added show details of the accident, as well as the buildings damaged in the explosion. — Chicago Tribune historical photo|
|A worker demonstrates how the switch for the streetcar is normally manually operated. — Chicago Tribune historical photo|
|Police officers and the coroner at the county morgue on May 25, 1950. The tragic accident left 34 persons dead. — Chicago Tribune historical photo|
|Green Hornet Streetcar Inferno, Oil on Canvas by Eric Edward Esper. (2013)|
There were enough small errors in this situation that added up to the tragedy. The flooded underpass had subsided. The switch should have been turned to let #7078 go south on State St. The operator of #7078 thought the switch had been turned. This was why the car was going so swiftly. The car would have been travelling at a much lower speed if the operator knew it was turning.ReplyDelete
The collision rendered the front doors of #7078 unusable, as well as being the closest to the fire. The conductor, William C. Lidell, while stunned from the impact, managed to adjust the rear door controls to neutral, so they could be opened by pushing on them. As to why he left the accident scene: He was Black and fearful of arrest. If there was anyone from the CTA who could have been arrested, it would have been the street supervisor telling the operator of #7078 that the detour was over without checking that the switch had been turned.
If you browse transit weblogs, Neil, you may encounter a gruesome photograph which I have glimpsed, which the newspapers did not print, and which might go beyond a PG-13 rating, showing bodies stacked up eight deep inside the rear doors. The persons who escaped went through the broken-out rear window, and in the case of some young teenage girls, knew how to "pull the cherry" (emergency exit) of the center door.
2021. Are any of the survivors still alive ?Delete
YES THEY DID PRINT THAT PICTUREReplyDelete
I was eight years old when this occurred. A lady by the name of Mrs.Sharpe was on that streetcar and did not survive. We could see the smoke as far away as 56th and Perry Ave.ReplyDelete
Her family said she waited for a friend so they could ride home together.
Is there a list of the victims anywhere? I think my grandfather was on that train.ReplyDelete
My mother - who is 96 - asked me tonight if I could confirm that her high school friend Eleonor Sparodic (so?) died in the explosion. She remembers her mother sending her the newspaper clippings. If anyone has the names of the victims, I would want to know.Delete