TriMet announced this afternoon that it's terminating the driver of the MAX train who was at the switch when a 3-year-old boy got separated
from his dad at a station.
TriMet said in a news release that the train operator violated agency procedures and failed to respond to four calls on the emergency intercom system that would have alerted him to the fact that the boy was left behind Nov. 16. (A 22-year-old woman stayed with the boy on the platform until his dad could return on another train.)
TriMet would not identifiy the operator other than saying it was a 20-year employee and a MAX operator for about 12 years. Documents released later by the union in connection with its appeal of the case indicated the operator's name is Paul Cooper. TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch then confirmed that the operator in question was Cooper.
: Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757
said this afternoon it has filed a grievance on behalf of the operator.
Union president/business representative Jonathan Hunt said TriMet is "eager to throw the operator under the train" with a hasty investigation he said ignores previously raised concerns about the MAX cars' intercom syste, and the fact that drivers are under great pressure to keep to a schedule.
Hunt described the driver as "distraught" over the incident and over his termination on both the eve of Thanksgiving and of his wedding anniversary.
A union news release went on to say,
“Our preliminary investigation has shown the following. A test on the train's intercom system the day of the event indicates that the two-way communication system did not work. No alert whatsoever appeared in the operator's cab. The data recorder also shows that every time the passenger frantically pushed the button, the passenger cancelled his prior call. Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened. Operators and passengers have been complaining about a number of intermittent problems with the new rail car's communications system. Nothing has been fixed.”
“There are numerous other problems with the new rail cars as well. In this case, as in other cases, customers push the button for the disabled ramp and the doors won't open and the operator does not even know the button was pushed because the notice doesn't get through to the cab. Operators and passengers have been complaining about trapped passengers and malfunctioning communication equipment. TriMet management knows this is a problem. They have been communicating with the rail manufacturer about these issues but there has been no resolution. As a consequence, the child was left alone on the platform. Unfortunately, this is not the only safety issue in the rail system that needs attention,”