Train Operator in O’Hare Crash Fell Asleep, and It Wasn’t the First Time

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Federal investigators confirmed today that the woman operating the Chicago commuter train that wound up on top of an escalator at O'Hare International Airport on Monday had fallen asleep at the controls. "She did admit she dozed off prior to (the train) entering the station. She did not awake again until the train hit," said lead NTSB investigator Ted Turpin. And she had nodded off before. The operator told investigators that she fell asleep and stopped one car past the Belmont station on February 1. The agency gave her a written warning, and a supervisor "admonished her and had a discussion with her."

The CTA said she had only mentioned that she "closed her eyes for a moment." "Had we known she had dozed off, there would have been stronger discipline," said spokesman Brian Steele. The employee works as a "fill-in," taking shifts whenever she is needed, and only qualified to operate trains in January. She is now on injury leave and the CTA plans to initiate disciplinary proceedings that may lead to her dismissal.

Earlier on Wednesday, what appears to be surveillance video of the crash surfaced on YouTube. Combined with the footage of the BASE jumpers who got past a sleepy World Trade Center guard, it should make a great training video on the dangers of employee fatigue.