Train operators suspended after derailment

December 14, 2009 (CHICAGO) A Green Line train jumped the tracks on the city's South Side on Saturday.

The CTA says the operator of the lead car in Saturday's derailment blew past a red stop signal. Her union says she simply wasn't familiar with the route. She was filling in for someone who was sick and had never worked it before. But several other workers have been suspended as well.

A Green Line train jumped the tracks while taking a curve near 59th Street and Calumet Avenue Saturday around noon with 42 passengers on board. None were seriously injured but all were shaken.

By that evening, ABC7 News has learned four CTA workers were immediately suspended without pay for the incident. But when asked about it on Monday, CTA President Richard Rodriguez seemed to pin it on only one of them.

"At this point in time, the operator has been removed from service until we can complete our investigation," said Rodriguez.

The train's two operators, a towerman and a 29-year veteran supervisor, are all off the job without pay.

Robert Kelly, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308, says the CTA's longstanding policy of suspending all workers involved in an incident without pay isn't fair to those who didn't do anything wrong.

"I was there Saturday and we had four people tell the truth, but those four are out of service today," said Kelly.

Saturday's derailment happened in the same area where a similar derailment occurred in May of last year. But the CTA says there is nothing wrong with the tracks, signals or any equipment in the area.

Few will forget the frightening images of a derailment in July of 2006 on the Blue Line as passengers escaped a smoky subway.

On Monday, a jury awarded $135,000 to Eduardo Martinez who was on that train. His lawyer says he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and expects passengers involved in Saturday's derailment may suffer a similar fate.

"And that's the problem with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, some of those issues. It's seared in their mind and they can't let go," said Jeff Kroll, personal injury attorney.

Kroll says his client's case is the first from the 2006 derailment to go to court but he expects there will be many more.

The CTA says it is only a matter of routine to suspend all workers involved in an incident without pay while an investigation is going on. When they determine which workers followed procedures, they receive back pay.

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