Tomorrow marks 10th anniversary of a major Illinois train accident

Most Chicago readers will no doubt remember a tragic transportation accident that is about to have its 10th anniversary. On February 9, 2003, a tanker train on its way to Chicago and carrying thousands of gallons of caustic chemicals suddenly derailed in the southern Illinois town of Tamaroa.

The train accident led to chemical spills, fires and the evacuation of approximately 1,000 people living near the tracks. After a thorough investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the derailment was caused by a bad weld in the rail; a weld that had been done just 17 days before the disaster occurred.

For many of the residents of Tamaroa, the derailment of Canadian National chemical train M33371 is not a distant memory. In fact, the resulting legal battle would drag on for another six years. Much of the community decided to join a class-action lawsuit against the railroad after rejecting early settlement offers of only $200.

Even though it took years, many of the plaintiffs feel like they eventually received fair compensation; a sum totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. One of the attorneys who played a large role in the success of the case said: “The people of Tamaroa are some of the finest people I have ever met. I think everyone ended up with a very good settlement.”

It is important for all Illinois residents to reflect on the 10th anniversary of this major train accident for two reasons. First, it shows us how even a small defect in infrastructure can lead to a massive transportation accident. And finally, this case shows us that if a committed group of plaintiffs is willing to fight long enough and hard enough, they may finally receive the compensation they deserve.

Source:, “10th anniversary Saturday of the derailment of train M33371 in Tamaroa; NTSB investigation blamed poor rail weld made 17 days earlier for derailment,” Feb. 6, 2013