(Washington, DC) – The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has its hands full these days. March 24, 2014 appears to have been one of its busiest days ever. And its busy itinerary has the general public wondering just how safe mass transit is.
The NTSB has been assisting officials with the three-week search for Malaysian Airlines MH370. On March 24, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that, in spite of having no definitive plane wreckage or bodies of passengers, the plane crashed in the Indian Ocean, killing all 239 on board. The search for the plane continues.
Additionally, NTSB staff are in Chicago, IL, investigating how a Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) train on March 24 tried to take an escalator at the O’Hare station, injuring 32 passengers in the process.
Preliminary findings show the train operator may have nodded off at the controls. When the Blue Line train came to the end of the tracks, it continued on and lifted itself up one of the station’s escalators.
“We shouldn’t jump to conclusions,” said a lawyer for the train operator, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It’s entirely possible one or more of the passengers had asked to be dropped off right at the escalator. And that’s exactly what my client did. He should be praised for excellent customer service, not vilified as an incompetent CTA employee.”
NTSB staff also find themselves in New Brunswick, NJ, where on March 24 an incoming New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit) train struck and killed a 50-year-old man standing on the platform.
“Or, more accurately, the man struck the train,” said a NTSB spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity. “He leaned in, over the yellow line, to see if the train was arriving. The train arrived, all right. It hit him in the face.”
The deceased rider did more than cause bodily harm to himself: four other people standing on the platform were injured as the man’s body parts flew in multiple directions. The victims, who ranged in age from 27 to 83, suffered a variety of injuries, from fractured ribs to head injuries.
“You’ve got to hand it to the guy,” said a NTSB employee, speaking on condition of anonymity. “But there’s no reason anyone should go to pieces over mass transit issues.
“He may have tried to put his best foot forward in watching for the train, but what he did is very, very dangerous. I guess the foot’s on the other hand now.”