Operator who crashed train at Chicago's O'Hare is fired

Operator's second serious safety violation 'sufficient for termination'

CHICAGO — Chicago transit officials on Friday fired a train operator who dozed off and did not wake up until cars jumped the end of the track at O'Hare International Airport and ran part-way up an escalator and stairs, a spokeswoman said.

More than 30 people were injured, though none seriously, when the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) train crashed early on the morning of March 24.

The train operator, who investigators and the CTA did not identify, had been on the job for 60 days and admitted to dozing off before the crash, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. She also admitted to overrunning a station in February.

The transit authority may terminate an operator for two serious safety violations under its contract with the union for those workers, CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said.

Referring to the March 24 crash, Chase said, "an incident of this severity is sufficient for termination."

The train was travelling at about 26 mph (42 kph) when it entered the station, a normal speed, and tripped an emergency braking system beside the track that failed to stop it before the impact, according to the NTSB.

The CTA said it would lower the speed limit for trains entering the station to 15 mph (24 kph) and move up the trip switches to engage emergency braking earlier on trains exceeding the limit.

Robert Kelly, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 that represents the operators, could not be reached immediately for comment.

Kelly said in March the woman had worked more than 60 hours in seven days before the crash.

The CTA on Friday announced it had changed its operator scheduling policies as the result of an internal review after the crash at O'Hare.

The changes include a 12-hour maximum of train operation duties in a 14-hour period and an increase in the minimum time for rest between shifts from eight to 10 hours.

The CTA will also set a weekly 32-hour limit for operators to run trains if they have less than one year of experience and requiring all rail operation employees to take at least one day off in any seven-day period.

The crash in March was the second in recent months involving an apparently out-of-control CTA train. In September, an unmanned CTA train ran onto active tracks and collided with a standing train at a suburban Chicago station during the morning rush hour, injuring at least 33 people.

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