Investigators focus on ‘operator error’ as cause of runaway train near Boston

11 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A Driverless Train Carrying 50 People Blew Through 4 Stops After Being Tampered With.

A six-car train carrying about 50 passengers left a suburban Boston transit station without a driver Thursday and went through four stations without stopping, and investigators were focusing on “operator error” as the reason why. The trip began shortly after 6 a.m. at the Braintree station and ended about nine minutes later when power was cut to the rails, transportation officials said. Pollack said a full-service break and hand break are required to be engaged before a train goes into bypass mode, and that it was unclear if both had been engaged before the operator left the train.

The MBTA, along with Transit Police, the Department of Public Utilities, and the Federal Transit Administration, are continuing to investigate the incident and the operator has been placed on administrative leave. Stephanie Pollack, the state’s transportation secretary, said the investigation was focusing on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority train’s operator, who had sought and received permission to move the train despite a signal problem. No passengers were hurt, but the 51-year-old operator suffered minor injuries after being brushed by the train at Braintree, according to MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo. While no one aboard the train was injured, Pollack referred to the incident as “an unacceptable breach of our responsibility to keep our riders safe” during a press conference Thursday afternoon.

An initial investigation indicated that a safety device within the train’s cab may have been tampered with. “This train was tampered with, and it was tampered with by somebody who knew what they were doing,” Baker said during an interview on Boston Herald Radio. Bypass mode allows a train to depart from a station without receiving the usual signal, and requires the driver to toggle a switch on the outside of the train. “Trains are put into emergency bypass mode only when there is a signal problem,” Pollack said. “It is a procedure that is used regularly, and it is a procedure that is used safely if proper procedures are followed.” MBTA officials cleared other trains along the track before shutting off the power, stopping the runaway train between North Quincy and JFK/UMass stations. Before doing so, they had to quickly clear other trains from the tracks to prevent a collision. “The people who were on the first car were trying to knock on the door of the conductor and that’s when we discovered that there was nobody there,” said Daly.

Vazquez, 51, has been with the MBTA for more than 25 years. “Passenger safety is the highest priority for the MBTA and this highly troubling incident is under investigation by Transit Police detectives,” said MBTA General Manager Frank DePaola in a release. Passenger Fernanda Daly told WBZ-TV’s Beth Germano that when the lights went out on the train, riders knocked on the booth but found no conductor inside. “The whole train started going slow, the lights went off and everything just stopped down between Quincy and JFK and we stayed there for about 30 minutes,” the female passenger said.

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