CHICAGO (AP) — The operator of a Chicago commuter train that crashed at O'Hare International Airport acknowledged she dozed off before the accident and had also done so last month when she overshot a station platform, a federal investigator said Wednesday.
Before the crash, the operator had been running trains on the nation's second-largest public transportation system for just two months. In Monday's accident, which injured more than 30 people, she woke up only as the eight-car train jolted onto the platform and barreled up an escalator leading into the airport. The accident occurred around 3 a.m., as the driver was nearing the end of her shift. The woman had an erratic work schedule and investigators were looking to see if that played a role in her evident fatigue.
"She did admit that she dozed off prior to entering the station. She did not awake again until the train hit," National Transportation Safety Board investigator Ted Turpin said at a final on-site briefing at the airport. Nearby, workers with electric saws and face shields were cutting up the lead train car, sending bright orange sparks flying, as they prepared to remove the wreckage.
Turpin and other officials interviewed the train operator Tuesday and were investigating her training, scheduling and disciplinary history. He described her as cooperative and "very forthcoming."
The NTSB said the operator told investigators that in February she dozed off on the job and partially missed a station. CTA officials said their records showed the operator said she "closed her eyes for a moment" and only one car passed the station.
"The CTA became aware of that almost immediately and a supervisor admonished her and had a discussion with her," Turpin said, adding that a reprimand was the only step required under the local agency's disciplinary guidelines, which increase in severity after multiple violations.
The operator is on "injured on duty" status, the CTA said, and faces discipline up to and including discharge for the incident Monday, which was her second safety violation.
She told investigators she was not taking any medications. Results from a drug-and-alcohol test had not come back yet.