MBTA fires operator in subway trolley crash

MBTA fires operator in subway trolley crash, says he was 'inattentive' to duties

Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) -- An "inattentive" trolley operator involved in a subway accident that injured about three dozen people was fired Wednesday after investigators learned he had worked an eight-hour graveyard shift at another job before reporting to work on the morning of the crash.

Jonathan Davis, interim general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, said the operator was "solely responsible" for the accident Thursday in the Boylston Street station on the MBTA's Green Line. Investigators said the trolley was arriving at the station when it rear-ended another trolley that was stopped at the platform, knocking a number of passengers off their feet. Thirty-five people were sent to hospitals but none of their injuries was serious.

The trolley operator, whose name was not released, had worked a second, outside job from midnight to 8 a.m., Davis said, then reported to his MBTA job at 11 a.m. on Thursday. The accident occurred less than an hour later.

By not having sufficient rest before reporting to work, the operator was unfit for duty and violated the T's policies, Davis said, though he added there was no specific rule that prohibits an employee from holding a second job.

"Because of his alarming disregard for customer and employee safety in performing his duty as a Green Line operator, today he was fired," Davis said at a news conference before the start of a regularly scheduled meeting of the state transportation board. "The conclusion is he was inattentive to his duties as a Green Line operator, resulting in a collision with the other vehicle."

The operator told investigators that he did not fall asleep, and investigators were unable to determine whether that was true, Davis said. He did not elaborate on what led to the conclusion that fatigue played a role in the accident.

In addition to withholding the operator's name, the MBTA declined to describe the nature of the other job except to say that it was part-time employment and that the operator had worked the same midnight to 8 a.m. shift on the previous day before reporting for the day job.

John Lee, president of the Boston Carmen's Union that represents MBTA operators, did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the firing.

The operator, who was hired in 2006 and had been slated to receive a safety award from the transit system on Friday, had twice completed a mandatory fatigue awareness program, Davis said.

Officials planned to discuss possible changes in policy as a result of the crash, but Davis acknowledged that it would be difficult to impose a rule barring employees from holding outside jobs.

A May 2009 trolley accident that injured more than 60 people in another Boston subway station was blamed on an operator who had been texting his girlfriend moments before the crash. Aidan Quinn was fired and later pleaded guilty to a criminal negligence charge, and the accident led to the MBTA banning cellphone use by operators.

There was no evidence of cellphone use in Thursday's crash and equipment problems previously had been ruled out as a cause of the accident. Davis said passengers should feel secure riding the T.

"The system is safe," he said.

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