THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

US faults distracted operator in ’09 T crash

By Martin Finucane
Globe Staff / April 29, 2011

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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 yesterday also found that the operator ignored a yellow signal and then a red signal. 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, the report said.

The operator “was engaged in the prohibited use of a wireless device, specifically text messaging, that distracted him from his duties,’’ the board said as it released its investigation results.

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 report, while not naming Quinn, 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. It said his failure to “observe and appropriately respond’’ to the red signal 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.

Martin Finucane can be reached at mfinucane@globe.com.