Oregon Transit Agency Silent on Train Crash

November 10, 2011

Portland, Oregon’s regional mass transit agency considered it a “minor service disruption” when one of its light rail trans crashed into a concrete barrier last month, didn’t say anything about the accident, and then it suspended an employee who posted the video to his YouTube account.

No riders were injured in the crash Oct. 13, but damage is estimated at $25,000 to $50,000, TriMet said.

Video from a closed-circuit security camera shows a MAX train heading down the tracks toward the Yellow Line terminus and slamming into a bumping post, pushing it forward several feet and then hitting a fenced concrete barrier. The front of the train crumpled, and debris flew.

On Sunday, TriMet bus driver and blogger Al Margulies posted the video, the Oregonian reported.

On Monday afternoon, a TriMet supervisor notified Margulies that he was being placed on paid leave and investigated for violating TriMet policy, the paper said.

Margulies said he was given the video by someone who probably got it from somebody else.

“Why wouldn’t I put it up?” he said. “It was interesting, and I collect TriMet material.” But he said later he took the video down “due to pressure.”

TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch said the agency’s accident investigation isn’t yet complete, so, “This video is not releasable yet.”

The paper said it asked TriMet last week for video, and a spokeswoman substituting for Fetsch, on vacation, denied it existed and said she didn’t know of the incident.

TriMet said it is still investigating the crash. But all of the equipment on the train was found to be working properly and it was probably due to operator error, Fetsch said.

“He was just starting his week – it was his Monday,” Fetsch said, “and he had worked just under eight hours when the incident occurred; overtime was not an issue.” TriMet identified the operator only as an eight-year employee.

A “couple of people” were on the train when it crashed, but no one was injured, Fetsch said.

“This is a rare occurrence,” she said. “In the 25-year history of MAX, this type of incident has occurred four times, this being the most serious.”

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