Minnesota residents who are eagerly anticipating the new light rail track expansion should be interested to know that a light rail crash that occurred a year ago at the O’Hare International Airport train station was determined to be caused by a fatigued train operator.
According to new documents released by the National Transportation Safety Board, an extensive interview was conducted with the train operator that found that the crash occurred when the train operator literally fell asleep on the job.
The train operator admitted to NTSB investigators that she had turned off the trains heating system a few stops prior to a train station stop because she started to feel fatigued and sleepy. She claimed that the last thing she remembered was her reducing the train’s speed down to about 35 MPH.
Shortly after lowering the speed she observed a signal that the train needed to stop. It was at this point that she apparently fell asleep, only to wake up to find that the train had jumped the tracks and slammed into an escalator and stair bank that connected the train station with the airport. Though 32 people were injured and had to be hospitalized because of the accident, thankfully no lives were lost.
The investigation also revealed that the train operator was originally hired as a flagger about a year prior to getting certified as a train operator. At the time of the crash her total cumulative experience as a train operator was just about two months.
Additionally, when investigators reviewed her work schedule they discovered that she had worked 11 straight days prior to the crash and had put in almost 60 hours of worktime the week of the crash. The train accident caused over $9 million worth of damage and resulted in a number of lawsuits.
Source: 89 WLS, “CTA train operator tells NTSB she turned off heat, felt sleepy before crash at O’Hare,” Mar. 27, 2015