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Drill Rig Collapse At CTA Bryn Mawr Station Halts Trains, Damages Power Lines; Building Evacuated

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A drill-head crane collapse outside the Bryn Mawr Avenue Red Line station stopped trains, damaged power lines, and also forced the evacuation of a nearby building Wednesday afternoon.

Chicago Transit Authority Red and Purple line trains were halted between the Belmont and Howard stops on account of the collapse, just as the afternoon rush was getting under way. By 4:42 p.m., Red Line trains were back to running their entire route, but were not stopping at Bryn Mawr - but Purple Line Express service was still suspended between Howard and Belmont.

Trains were again stopping at Bryn Mawr by 9 p.m.

The Fire Department was called for the construction equipment collapse at 1119 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., which is the address of the 'L' stop. The IOUE Local 150 union said the piece of equipment that collapsed was a drill rig.

At a news conference, Chicago Fire Department District Chief John Gies said the item was a drill-head crane that is used to drill a hole or caisson into which concrete will be poured.

As CBS 2's Jermont Terry reported, the operator - part of a crew with Walsh Construction - was inside the crane doing drilling work when he lost the balance of the crane and it toppled over.

Berkin Ozisikyilmaz tweeted a photo that appeared to show the rig collapsing with a cloud of smoke or dust rising over it.

A view from a nearby building showed that the rig also toppled down onto a car parked in area. The rig landed upside-down.

At the scene, the door for the cabin of the rig where the operator sits was open. The operator was able to get out safely and was not injured. He declined to go to the hospital. No one else was injured either, despite the extremely heavy crane coming down onto the ground.

The Fire Department reported power lines in the area were damaged by the crane. A nearby building on Winthrop Avenue had to be evacuated.

One of the people who was evacuated was a woman named Abby, who couldn't do much other than walk in circles outside her apartment building after a long day at work.

"Some people actually wheeled out luggage and I've got a Hefty bag," Abby said. "If this doesn't say 'class,' I don't know what does."

She was trying to find humor after that horrific scene in the alley behind her building.

"They said, 'Grab what you needed,' and I was so frazzled," Abby said. "I'm not looking for luggage. I'm just throwing things in a Hefty bag."

Gies said it will take a while to get the rig back up, as it is a large piece of equipment that has to be taken apart.

The residents of the building that was evacuated – which was also left without power – will be put up somewhere until that happens.

CBS 2's Terry talked to a man who was on his balcony, which overlooks the construction scene. The man, Kevin Brown, witnessed the machinery and the operator tilt out of control as he looked out the window.

"All the construction guys started to yell, like, 'No! No! No!' and the whole thing started to come over," Brown said, "and I just turned around and started to run away from the crane."

Brown said many expressed concern for the rig operator after the collapse, but he turned out to be fine.

"The crane itself was on the platform of the 'L,' and it tipped over. so he was on his side. And I could talk to him. I could hear him more easily than I can hear you, because it was silent," Brown told Terry. "And everybody said, 'Are you OK?' and he said, 'I've already radioed in, I'm OK,' and they brought over a ladder and he walked down the rest of the way under his own power."

The Red Line is under reconstruction in that area, and the Berwyn and Lawrence Avenue stations not far to the south are closed for rebuilding. But the Bryn Mawr station presently remains open.

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Bryn Mawr Avenue remained closed near the scene for hours afterward. There were reports of heavy traffic along nearby Broadway.

On Wednesday night, the attention was on finding out what happened. But nobody in Abby's building could come home.

She was philosophical about it all.

"Someone could've been walking their dogs," Abby said. "You've got to put it into perspective. No one got hurt."

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been called to investigate. But first, crews have to stabilize the ground and start disassembling the heavy piece of machinery piece by piece, in what will be a slow process.


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