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2008 Newton Train Accident: Sleep Disorder May Have Caused Operator To Doze Off

According to a federal safety panel, Terrese Edmonds, the train operator who failed adhere to a red stop signal, causing the May 2008 Newton, Massachusetts train accident, may have fallen asleep because she was suffering from an undiagnosed sleep disorder.

Tests indicate that there was Doxylamine in Edmond’s urine. The drug is an over-the-counter sleeping aid. Officials say that the 24-year-old train operator should have stopped her trolley for a minute and then kept the train going at 10mph because of the red signal, which indicated there was a train up ahead. Investigators say that instead, the trolley that Edmonds was operating drove into another train at a speed of 38mph.

Seven people were injured in the Newton train crash, which took place in May 2008. The panel says if the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority had used an automated train control system, the fatal Massachusetts green line accident could have been avoided. Other MBTA lines use this automatic braking system.

Investigators also say they discovered broken electrical connections between the track sections. Because train operators are not required to report faulty train signals-a safety risk-this also could have contributed to the deadly Newton, Massachusetts train collision.

Other safety issues discovered during the National Transportation Safety Board Investigation:
• No positive train control system.
• Poor coordination between crew members about signal indicators.
• Inadequate reporting requirements regarding possible signal malfunctions.
• Failure to screen rail transit operators for possible obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea
This is a common disorder. Because a person may have problems sleeping at night, he or she may be prone to excessive sleepiness during the daytime. Many people don’t know that they suffer from sleep apnea-a condition that can be fatal if the person with this disorder is a truck driver, a train operator, or another motorist behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.

There are tests that the operators of common carrier vehicles can take to determine whether they have this disorder that could put their passengers at risk.

Sleep disorder likely factor in fatal Newton Green Line trolley crash, Boston Herald, July 14, 2009
NTSB executive summary of findings in Green Line crash, Boston.com, July 14, 2009
Conductor Killed In Newton Train Collision, WBZ, May 29, 2008

Related Web Resources:
American Sleep Apnea Association

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority

If you or your loved one was seriously injured because the MBTA was negligent or due to train operator error, you may have grounds for filing an MBTA train accident lawsuit. Contact our Boston personal injury law firm today.