The news offers dark refutation of initial reports from local police and television stations which optimistically said the rail line was not used by the city’s commuter services and no people or vehicles were known to be under the bridge.
The derailment caused a backup of about 30 rail cars on the bridge which in turn caused the structural collapse as the bridge was not designed to sustain that much weight.
Authorities counted 27 rail cars wrecked in the accident area, each one filled with coal which scattered and piled tons of the fuel under the destroyed bridge.
A cleanup detail expected to be little more than an inconvenience for area motorists turned grim when fire crews discovered the car yesterday after only a few hours of work.
Glenview fire chief Wayne Globerger said the clearing efforts began with no evidence there would be people in the debris and he declined to identify the victims other than noting the driver was a man.
“At the time of the accident, given the derailed coal cars and amount of debris, it was not immediately clear if any cars had been trapped underneath the collapsed bridge or if there had been any injuries,” he said in a statement.
The car with the bodies inside was reportedly loaded onto a flatbed truck and taken to a medical examiner’s office.
According to the Chicago Tribune, authorities on the scene say the discovery of more cars is possible as a crane and other equipment have been mobilized to search through mountains of coal and wreckage.
“[It’s] definitely possible there’s more cars,” Globerger was quoted by the newspaper as saying.
“Keep in mind, we’re talking about tons (of debris) here.”
Each car when loaded with coal weighs between 75 and 85 tons.
The accident has highlighted the dangers of coal shipping, particularly in urbanized areas, among environmentalists and community groups working to stifle development plans for coal terminals in the Pacific Northwest.
An industry campaign to establish six coal exporting ports in Washington and Oregon, thus connecting Powder River Basin mines with Asian markets, has come under increasing anti-coal pressure as details from this week’s derailments unfold.
On Monday, a 30-car coal spill in Washington state caused no injuries but inflamed the region’s coal opponents by materializing the real risks of increased coal traffic in the region.