Operator of Derailed Chicago Train Was 'Extremely Tired'

Operator of Derailed Chicago Train Was 'Extremely Tired'

At nearly 3 a.m. Monday morning, a Chicago CTA train ran off the tracks and slammed into a pedestrian elevator, causing massive damage and injuries to passengers. Now the operators’ union is saying the train’s operator fell asleep at the switch.

On Monday afternoon, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 President Robert Kelly reported at a press conference that the female CTA employee piloting the train “was extremely tired” and “might have dozed off.”

Investigators are attempting to ascertain if the Blue Line train was speeding when it came to the end of the line at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and if safety systems were operational.

There is some question as to what happened to the deadman’s switch that is supposed to slow a train when an operator is no longer holding onto the throttle. The train should have been going five miles per hour at that point in its route. It seems, however, to have been going up to 20 miles per hour just before the crash.

Tim DePaepe, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Bureau, said, “The signal data will give us information where we can extrapolate speed.”

The operator has been a CTA employee for a year and was only slightly injured in the derailment.

On ABC 7 News, Kelly insisted that the crash was not the result of drugs or alcohol. “She assured me that there is no problem with her passing the drug and alcohol, that was not a factor in this. She said she was extremely tired,” Kelly said.

CTA officials said that because the train jumped the tracks, the 30 injured passengers avoided more serious injuries. The derailment may have even prevented some deaths, as the forward movement of the train was severely slowed. If the train had remained on the tracks and slammed into the track’s end on its wheels, the shock of the crash would likely have been far worse on passengers.

None of the twenty-six people were injured very seriously. The injured were taken to local hospitals for bumps, bruises, and scrapes. Only six passengers had more serious injuries, and those were not life threatening.

NTSB investigators will be interviewing the train operator on Tuesday. Reports, though, showed that she did have 17 hours off between her previous shift and Monday’s shift that ended in disaster.

In the meantime, the last leg of the Blue Line has been shut down, and shuttle busses will be running passengers from the second to last stop at Rosemont to O’Hare.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at