A train operator caused a crash that resulted in 68 injuries and $9.6 million dollars in damages, according to a federal report.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says on May 8, 2009, the operator of a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Green Lines train told transit police that he was sending a text to his girlfriend while turning the train at a station in Boston when the crash occurred. Before texting her, the operator had tried to call his girlfriend. She didn’t answer, so he left a voice message and then started to text her.
The operator’s train slammed into the back of a stopped train.
Transit police found a draft outbound message on the operator’s cell phone.
The report says texting caused the operator to be distracted, therefore he missed a yellow signal and then a red one.
After his interview with transit police on the day of the crash, investigators never got to talk with the operator again.
Once local authorities started the process to bring criminal charges against him, his lawyer told the NTSB he would not grant an interview to their investigators unless the operator was granted immunity. The NTSB doesn’t grant immunity, so investigators weren’t able to learn specifics about the crash from the operator.
At the time of the crash, MBTA’s employee policy said train operators must not use cellular phones and other electronic devices when they are on duty. After the crash, the policy was amended to also prohibit the possession of cell phones and other electronic devices by operators of MBTA buses, trains and streetcars.
Between May 2009 and June 2010, MBTA discharged nine operators for using an electronic device and suspended eight employees for possession of a device while working.
Twelve passengers on the train have filed lawsuits against MBTA.
You can read a PDF of the NTSB report here.