Transit workers honored for halting driverless runaway train

AP News
Posted: Dec 14, 2015 2:28 PM
Transit workers honored for halting driverless runaway train

BOSTON (AP) — Two transit employees whose quick action is credited with bringing a driverless Red Line train to a safe stop were honored Monday at a Statehouse ceremony.

Gov. Charlie Baker presented citations to Mark McNeill and Ainsley "Lee" Saunders. Both work in the operations control center for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

The driverless train carrying about 50 passengers left the Braintree station on Thursday morning and rumbled through several stops. It was brought to a halt when power was gradually cut to the electrified third rail. The transit workers first had to make sure that other trains were safely out of the way.

Baker said Friday that the operator of the runaway train appeared to violate several safety procedures.

MBTA general manager Frank DePaola said the driver faces a disciplinary hearing Monday.

"I don't know what the recommendation of the committee will be," DePaola told reporters. "Once they make a recommendation to me, it's my responsibility as general manager to carry it out."

He also said the operator of the train "did not have continuous service" at the MBTA.

"I think he left and came back," DePaola said. "I'm not sure of the circumstances of those actions or steps."

Transit officials have said the operator, a 51-year-old man with more than 25 years of experience with the MBTA, got off the train to put it into "bypass mode" after receiving permission to override a signal problem.

Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack said Friday the train's emergency brake hadn't been engaged. She said investigators are also looking into reports that the train's throttle had been tied back with some kind of cord.

Pollack said the incident appeared to be the result of a "series of irresponsible actions" by a single employee. Engaging in prohibited acts is a cause for firing, she added.

The driver was placed on paid administrative leave.