The operator of a Green Line train told investigators he had not only texted his girlfriend but tried to call her in the minutes before he rear-ended another train in a tunnel near Government Center Station in 2009, a federal investigative report says.
The National Transportation Safety Board report issued today also found that the operator ignored a yellow signal, which was visible from 181 feet away and then a red signal, which was visible from 367 feet away. One of the red marker lights on the rear of the train ahead could be seen from 447 feet away, while both marker lights could be seen from 216 feet away, the report said.
The operator of the train “was engaged in the prohibited use of a wireless device, specifically text messaging, that distracted him from his duties,” the report said.
The May 8, 2009 accident injured 68 people and caused $9.6 million in damage. Aiden Quinn, the operator who told investigators he had been texting, pleaded guilty in December to negligence and was sentenced to two years of probation and 100 hours of community service.
The NTSB said the operator told MBTA Transit Police that he had called his girlfriend while turning the train on the loop at Government Center and left her a message. Quinn said he then started a text message to her as he left Government Center Station.
The report said that, despite the signals and the lights on the rear of the train ahead, the train's operator had accelerated to near the maximum allowed track speed of 25 miles per hour until "just before" the crash.
The report said that his failure to "observe and appropriately respond" to the red signal, which was on about 98 feet before the stopped train, was the probable cause of the accident.
“At the time, the pilot operator was text messaging on his wireless device, and it is likely that this activity caused him to lose his situational awareness and his focus on operating the train,” the report said.
The report said the lack of a "positive train control" system designed to prevent collisions was also a contributing factor.
The federal experts noted that the T had toughened its rules against cellphone use -- banning operators from even possessing them. And it said the T is taking steps to install a positive train control system on both the Mattapan High Speed Line and the Green Line.
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