Who is the train operator behind the Blue Line derailment? - FOX 32 News Chicago

Who is the train operator behind the Blue Line derailment?

Posted: Updated:
(Photo by Panda Osito) (Photo by Panda Osito)
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Currently, the identity of the female train operator who derailed the Blue Line Monday is unknown, but her union said she had been working for the CTA for about a year. She had also been getting plenty of overtime in the past week. However, she had at least 17 hours off the clock before her shift started around eight o'clock Sunday night.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 President Robert Kelly told FOX 32 News he spoke with the operator about three hours after the accident happened. Kelly said she told him she was extremely tired, and he said it's very possible she fell asleep just as the train was rolling into the O'Hare station.

Kelly described the driver as very shaken and distraught about the accident. She will be interviewed Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) with a union representative at her side. The operator also took a drug and alcohol test following the accident. Although, Kelly said she assured him that wasn't a factor.

"I tell our members all the time, the biggest problem we have in this job is complacency. We do this on a daily basis. And you do this five, six trips a day. And you go years and years without anything happening and all of a sudden the perfect storm comes," said Kelly.

Kelly believes the train may have been moving just slowly enough as it approached the platform that it didn't trigger any of the automatic sensors that would have slowed it down or brought the train to a complete stop.

There has been a great deal of recent research in the transportation industry regarding sleep patterns and circadian rhythms.

Early Monday, FOX 32 talked to a sleep expert at Northwestern's School of Medicine who said if in fact it's true the driver fell asleep, it's not surprising it happened when it did.

"We're at our lowest point at night time. So, at 2:50 in the morning when this accident happened, it would perhaps be one of the lowest points as their circadian rhythm for alertness. So, the chances of falling asleep at that time are quite high," sleep expert Kathryn Reid said.

Reid also said there are some new medications on the market that help people working unusual shifts maintain their alertness. However, companies in the transportation industry have been slow to adopt them because of concerns about their possible abuse.

Even if the female operator did fall asleep, why didn't the safety checks built into the rail system slow the train down or stop the train completely?

Kelly said he believes it was a perfect storm. He believes the operator slowed the train to 15 miles an hour when she approached the platform, just under the speed that would have triggered the sensors and caused the train to automatically stop.

Then, if she fell asleep just at that moment, the train would have hit the so-called "bumping post" -- a large, spring-like mechanism at the end of the track designed to stop a train. However, in this case, Kelly said the bumping post may have actually caused the train to jump the track.

"You're in a well there. The bumping post would have been pushed against the back of the well and then stopped. From what I have seen, it looked like what happened is the bumping post actually tilted and then became a catapult. And that may be a problem," added Kelly.

Kelly theorized that when the operator hit the bumping post, she may have inadvertently pushed the Cineston controller -- what's commonly called the 'dead man's switch" -- and accelerated the train, rather than stopping it.

That operator has worked for the CTA for about a year and will be interviewed tomorrow by the NTSB.

Follow Us!

Share Your Photos & Video

Powered by WorldNow

205 N. Michigan Avenue
Ground Floor
Chicago, IL 60601
Station Operator: (312) 565-5532
Newsroom: (312)565-5533

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices