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2 fired, 2 suspended in CTA 'ghost train' crash

Published: Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013 9:34 a.m. CDT

CHICAGO (MCT) - Two CTA electrical workers have been fired and two other employees suspended as a result of a collision in September between a "ghost train" that traveled on its own for almost a mile after leaving a West Side rail yard and struck a Blue Line train stopped at the Harlem station, transit officials said Friday.

The primary cause of the bizarre accident on Sept. 30 has been attributed to a CTA switch worker leaving the four-car train in a powered-up mode while it was in storage at the Forest Park rail yard, according to investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board. Electricity was running to the propulsion system, lights and other equipment.

Proper procedures to prevent rail cars from moving require retracting the electric coupler buttons to prevent an electrical connection between the cars and disconnecting the batteries, officials said.

About 30 passengers on the Blue Line train suffered minor injuries when their train was hit head-on by the runaway train.

The two electrical workers were fired for using improper techniques to clean an electrical junction box on one of the cars of the runaway train and for allowing water to enter electrical components, the CTA said.

"The improper techniques were one of a number of circumstances that the CTA has determined contributed to the incident," CTA spokesman Brian Steele said.

The switchman who failed to power down the train, and also violated CTA rules by not notifying a supervisor that the train was still receiving power, was suspended without pay for three days, the CTA said.

The president of the CTA rail workers union first disclosed the suspension of the switchman on Thursday and charged that the CTA used the employee as a scapegoat after the NTSB investigation found that the CTA routinely left out-of-service trains with the power on and the brakes not fully engaged to prevent movement. The CTA disputed the NTSB finding, but it immediately made changes in procedures.

A CTA supervisor in charge of rail car yard cleaning was suspended without pay for two weeks, the CTA said Friday. The exact reason for the suspension was not immediately provided, although the discipline was related to the crash.

(c)2013 the Chicago Tribune Distributed by MCT Information Services

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