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Blame Game Between CTA, Union Continues In Wake Of O’Hare Train Crash

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Jay Levine Jay Levine
Jay Levine is the chief correspondent for CBS 2 Chicago. He joined...
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(CBS) – Startling new information emerged Friday about the woman at the controls of the Blue Line CTA train that crashed at O’Hare earlier this week.

CTA Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports the union representing operators blames the transit agency for the fatigue of part-time workers and for the failure of systems that should have stopped the runaway train.

“I’ve watched that film a hundred times this week, and every time I get a chill going down my back watching that train jump up and go up that escalator,” Robert Kelly, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308, said at a news conference.

Kelly didn’t duck tough questions about the operator who fell asleep at the controls around 3 a.m. Monday, when a Blue Line train jumped the rails and scaled an escalator at the O’Hare train terminal. There were several injuries, but officials say the disaster could have been much worse during a busier time.

The operator was honest with investigators, Kelly said.

“This girl is torn to pieces over this,” he said. “I walked away, actually, with a new, totally different amount of respect for this woman. She couldn’t lie if she wanted to.”

CBS 2 has confirmed the train operator is Brittney Haywood.

She proudly posted a picture of her CTA operator permit on Instagram after getting it in December.

The operator told investigators she didn’t wake up until impact. But Kelly claimed the CTA bore some of the responsibility for her fatigue, with the way the transit agency schedules its replacement workers and how much they work.

“Seven days prior to this she worked 69 hours,” Kelly said.

The CTA disputes that, claiming she worked 55 hours over seven days; no shift was longer than 9 hours. The CTA says the operator had been off 18 hours before the shift that ended in a $6 million mess.

Kelly stepped back from saying the CTA is unsafe.

“Overall, it’s a safe system. Would there be change to improve it? Absolutely. Will they get done? I hope so,” he said.

Dr. James Wyatt, a sleep disorder specialist at Rush University Medical Center, says there’s a “shared responsibility” between the CTA to set reasonable work schedules and workers to ensure they are getting enough sleep.

 

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