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Chicago train driver sacked for falling asleep and causing crash at O'Hare Airport

30 people were injured when the train jumped onto the platform and went up the escalators and stairs
  • @kashmiragander

A train driver in the US city of Chicago was fired on Friday, after she fell asleep while operating a train last month and did not wake up until it had mounted a platform at O'Hare International Airport and ran up an escalator and stairs, according to transit officials.

30 people suffered minor injuries during the incident when the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) train crashed early in the morning on 24 March.

The unnamed train operator had worked for 60 hours that week, and admitted to dozing off before the crash, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

She also admitted to overrunning a station in February.

Under CTA's contract with the train driver's union, an employee may lose their job if they are found guilty of two serious safety violations.

Referring to the 24 March crash, CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said, "an incident of this severity is sufficient for termination."

The train was traveling at the normal speed of about 26 mph (42 kph) when it entered the station and tripped an emergency braking system beside the track that failed to stop it before the impact, according to the NTSB.

The CTA said it would lower the speed limit for trains entering the station to 15 mph (24 kph) and move up the trip switches to engage emergency braking earlier on trains exceeding the limit.

Robert Kelly, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 that represents the operators, could not be reached immediately for comment.

Kelly said in March the woman had worked more than 60 hours in seven days before the crash.

The CTA on Friday announced it had changed its operator scheduling policies as the result of an internal review after the crash at O'Hare.

The changes include a 12-hour maximum of train operation duties in a 14-hour period and an increase in the minimum time for rest between shifts from eight to 10 hours.

The CTA will also set a weekly 32-hour limit for operators to run trains if they have less than one year of experience and requiring all rail operation employees to take at least one day off in any seven-day period.

The crash in March was the second in recent months involving an apparently out-of-control CTA train.

In September, an unmanned CTA train ran onto active tracks and collided with a standing train at a suburban Chicago station during the morning rush hour, injuring at least 33 people.

Additional reporting by Reuters