Metra train runs during rush hour with door open

Metra officials say they're investigating why a rush-hour train left Union Station and ran at express speed with a passenger door open Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013. (Posted Feb. 6, 2013)

Metra said today that a buildup of ice is the “likely culprit” that prevented a door from closing for more than 10 minutes on a moving express train.

An investigation into the Tuesday evening incident is continuing and crew members who were working on the BNSF Line train are also being questioned, Metra said.

Metra said it has checked the equipment on the BNSF line train No. 1283 that ran express between Union Station and Naperville, and that it was found to be operating properly and was put back into service today.

That appears to point to a possible failure on the part of the BNSF Railway Co. crew to follow proper procedures.

According to Metra, a conductor is supposed to check that the doors for all cars are closed before closing the train’s last door. Red lights above the doors are supposed to signal if the doors are open.

In addition, the engineer is not supposed to move the train until a signal in the cab indicates that all doors are closed.

The train left the station at 6:14 p.m. with a full load of passengers, but a door on a middle car remained open. Dozens of passengers, meanwhile, walked through the vestibule past the open door as the train was moving.

The incident was captured on cellphone video by a Tribune reporter who was aboard the train. At least one passenger tried to close the door while the train was moving, reporter Rob Manker said.

Express trains often run 60 mph or faster, but it's unclear how fast this train was going at the time.

The door remained open for over 10 minutes until a conductor passing through the vestibule while collecting tickets was able to pull it closed, he said.

Representatives for Metra and Fort Worth, Texas-based BNSF Railway Co., which operates the line with its employees for Metra, said late Tuesday that the matter was being investigated.

“We are taking it very seriously,” Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said. He added that the train equipment was being checked overnight before going back into service.

The incident raises questions about whether crew members followed rules to ensure that all doors are closed and passengers are safe before the train moves.

Those rules were prompted by the 1995 incident in which violinist Rachel Barton was caught in the door of a moving UP North Line train and was dragged, causing her to lose part of a leg. A jury awarded Barton $29 million.

According to Metra, before a train leaves a station, a conductor must close all doors except his own, then take a second look down the platform to ensure the doors are completely shut and that no one is still trying to board.

A light in the engineer’s cab is supposed to indicate when all doors are closed, Gillis said.

Metra has had more recent incidents in which trains began moving when doors were not completely shut or passengers were caught.

In March 2011, a 63-year-old Indian Head Park woman escaped serious injury when she was caught in the doors of a BNSF Line train while attempting to board in La Grange. Fellow passengers were able to open the doors and free the woman as the train began to roll.

In December 2009, a 4-year-old boy's boot was caught by the door of a SouthWest Service train and his mother yanked the child's leg free as the train left the Worth station. Two crew members were disciplined as a result.

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