Saturday, 2:15 PM
Brakes, track ruled out as causes in Green Line crash
By Martin Finucane, Globe Staff
Investigators probing the fatal trolley crash on the Green Line Wednesday have ruled out problems with the trolleys' brakes and problems with the track, but other factors still need further investigation, including the performance of the train operators and dispatcher, a federal transportation safety official said today.
"We've taken the brakes off the table... the track off the table, but the work is really just beginning in some of these other areas," said National Transportation Safety Board member Kitty Higgins, the spokeswoman for the team investigating the crash.
Higgins said a preliminary look also indicated there were no problems with the signal system, but those findings still needed to be confirmed by field testing.
The crash Wednesday evening on the D branch of the Green Line in Newton threw commuters from their seats and killed the operator of the rear trolley, Terrese Edmonds, 24, of Boston.
At a news conference near the crash site this afternoon to update the public on the progress of the investigation, Higgins also said the evidence suggested that Edmonds had not applied the brakes before the crash. Applying brakes leaves a telltale trail of sand on the tracks and investigators could not find such a trail, she said.
She said a small amount of sand had been found that indicated the brakes might have been applied right before the collision.
Based on recording equipment known as "fault loggers" on the two trolleys, Higgins said the speed of the rear trolley was 37 to 38 miles per hour, while the one in front was traveling only 3-4 miles per hour at the time of the collision. The speed limit for trolleys in the area is 40 mph.
Higgins said investigators today had interviewed a second crew member aboard the rear trolley and the dispatcher who was responsible for dispatching both trolleys. The two-member crew on the trolley that was hit will be interviewed today and Saturday, she said.
Officials will also investigate whether Edmonds was using a cell phone at the time of the crash, Higgins said.
“We are very aware that the issue of a cell phone has been raised, and we will chase that down,” she said. “Operators are not supposed to use cell phones while operating; they are supposed to use radios.”
The NTSB has not recovered a cell phone in its investigation, but she said it’s possible that investigators from the Middlesex district attorney’s office have recovered it "if there is one." The district attorney’s office, which is conducting a separate investigation, did not return calls.
Higgins said that the NTSB had not interviewed any passengers so far, but "I'm sure we would welcome hearing from people, if they want to contact us."
Investigators planned to reenact the crash Saturday or Sunday evening. Higgins said the reenactment will allow them a chance to "see what the operators of the train would have seen."
James Vaznis and David Abel of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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