Metra suspends 2 in train-door incident

December 21, 2009 (WORTH, Ill.) A suburban mother said the door of a Metra train closed on the foot of her 4-year-old son, trapping the boy as the train began to pull away. It happened Saturday at the Metra train stop in Worth.

Eileen Kermer said she was able to save her son by pulling him out of his boot as the train left the station.

The boy was not injured in the incident. Metra said it has launched an investigation into how this might have happened.

Metra has a second-look policy for its conductors. They scan the platform twice before they signal an "all clear" for the engineer to throttle up. In Saturday's incident, Metra said it appears procedure was not followed and what resulted was a very close call.

Eileen Kermer, her daughter and 4-year-old son were enjoying the Christmas scenery downtown Saturday. They took Metra's Southwest line back home to Worth. Her daughter got off the train, as did Eileen. As she was lifting her son, the door closed on one of his legs and the train started pulling away. Eileen started screaming and pulling back.

"Then I pulled more and that's when his foot was just in there and then the train started moving. So I just with all my might, scared out of my mind, I pulled him as hard as I could, thinking, oh, my God, I don't know what's going to happen," said Kermer.

Eileen pulled hard enough to free the boy as he slipped out of one of his boots. The boy is fine. The train left with his boot on it. She called Metra to report the incident and was met, she said, with an attitude of indifference. On Monday, Metra said the incident was very serious.

"It certainly appears that the rules were violated and weren't followed. Had they been followed, this wouldn't have taken place," said Judy Pardonnet, Metra spokesperson.

At station stops, the rules are that conductors should stand on the platform, make sure all the passengers are on or off, signal the engineer, and then take a second look. Closed doors produce a signal in the locomotive cab and the train departs. That second-look policy started after a violinist lost a leg in 1995. Her violin case was caught in the door as a train departed the station.

Eileen Kermer said she fears Metra is not paying attention to safe practices.

"They need to make sure there is a conductor there when they get on the train and when they get off to make sure everyone is on there safely," said Kermer.

"The only way to demand safety is to demand accountability. If this lady didn't step forward, you can be sure this is being swept under the rug," said Bob Clifford, attorney.

Bob Clifford was the attorney for the violinist and he said he is not suing Metra as a result of this incident but is assisting Kermer to get the message out. Clifford argued in the other case that Metra approached cases with a sort of "no harm, no foul" corporate attitude. He said today that attitude persists.

Metra disputes Clifford's comments. They have suspended two crew members involved with no pay pending a disciplinary proceeding.

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