NTSB: Operator in Chicago rail crash had fallen asleep at controls before

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CHICAGO — The operator of the Chicago Transit Authority train that jumped the platform and climbed an escalator at the O’Hare airport station has admitted dozing off at the controls, and had she been admonished last month when she also fell asleep and missed a stop, officials said Wednesday.

The new details of the investigation were disclosed Wednesday morning by Ted Turpin, the lead investigator of the crash for the National Transportation Safety Board, after officials interviewed the operator.

“She did admit that she dozed off prior to entering the station, and she did not awake again until the train hit close to the end of the bumper,” Turpin said.

“This time, she woke up when she hit,” he said.

Turpin could not say why the train did not stop automatically.

The eight-car train shot onto the platform and up the escalator at the O’Hare station shortly before 3 a.m. Monday, injuring more than 30 people. Experts have said people would have been killed had the accident happened later.

Monday was not the first time the operator fell asleep at the controls, he said. “She did tell us that, in February, she dozed off and passed a station without stopping. CTA became aware of that almost immediately, and a supervisor admonished her and had a discussion with her,” Turpin said.

In February, operator was “just a little past the station,” when she woke up and realized she was too far past the station open the doors, Turbin said.

Turpin said the operator was hired by the CTA last April and was selected for the agency’s training program for operators in October. She had been working as an operator for 60 days, Turpin said.

Her work record shows she also overslept on another occasion and was late for work.

Turpin said the operator filled in for other workers. “She was a fill-in train operator. She only got her assignments on a day-to-day basis, so her shifts were changing continually,” he said.

He estimated the damage at $6 million.

The train has remained at the top of the escalator as the NTSB conducted their investigation, but crews began dismantling it Wednesday morning.