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Driver in Chicago subway train crash had 'dozed off,' NTSB says

Public TransportationPublic Transportation DisastersDisasters and AccidentsTransportation DisastersCTA Blue Line CrashChicago Transit AuthorityO'Hare International Airport

The driver of a Chicago subway train that crashed at O'Hare International Airport told authorities that she fell asleep before the train entered the station, derailed and raced up an escalator, the NTSB announced Wednesday.

She didn't wake up until the Blue Line train had nearly reached the bumper at the station, NTSB investigator-in-charge Ted Turpin said during a televised news conference Wednesday morning. The eight-car train eventually smashed into the bumper, apparently launching the train onto the platform. More than 30 people were injured.

The agency's investigators were still trying to determine what exactly caused the crash, which led to an estimated $6 million in damage to the train, Turpin said. Investigators collected video from the train and stations and were analyzing data from the train to determine why brakes that had been applied, including the automatic emergency brake, didn’t do more to slow and stop the train.

"The train was trying to stop," Turpin said.

The driver, whose name has not been publicly released, was hired by the Chicago Transit Authority in April 2013. But she had become a qualified conductor just 60 days before the crash, Turpin said. And she admitted to investigators that she had "dozed" off in February, too, and missed a station during that snooze. She was admonished for that lapse at the time, Turpin said.

"She's been very cooperative" with investigators, Turpin said.

A backup for regular operators, the driver had a constantly changing schedule and had most recently worked Saturday night.  On Sunday night, she had overslept and was late for her overnight shift. She was in the fourth of five round-trips to O’Hare when the crash happened at 2:50 a.m. Monday.

Investigators have previously said the train was traveling the correct speed as it approached the station.

NTSB officials planned to gather more data from the transit agency before interviewing the driver again to determine what role fatigue played in the crash.

At least two passengers on board the train have reportedly filed lawsuits against the CTA over injuries suffered in the crash, saying the agency was negligent in ensuring the safety of passengers.

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Public TransportationPublic Transportation DisastersDisasters and AccidentsTransportation DisastersCTA Blue Line CrashChicago Transit AuthorityO'Hare International Airport
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