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Baby stroller stops train

(The following story by Michelle Muellenberg appeared on the Metro West Daily News website on July 27.)

SOUTHBOROUGH, Mass. -- Commuters, some heading to the DNC, were evacuated yesterday afternoon after conductors saw a "suspicious" baby stroller that had ridden from Boston to Worcester and remained on the return trip.

Local, state and federal authorities responded to the Southborough commuter rail station after reports of a potentially dangerous item. The baby stroller, however, did not have "explosive components."

"With the DNC heightened security, we have to do what we have to do," Southborough Fire Chief John Mauro told commuters.

Conductors had thought the stroller belonged to a man who got on in Boston, but then noticed the man was no longer with it, said a member of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The federal agency has increased its force, including about 15 explosive sniffing dogs, in Boston during this week's Democratic National Convention.

After noticing the stroller was on the train, conductors stopped in Southborough and called local authorities.

"The stroller was on the train but the person who was with it wasn't," Mauro said.

Local firefighters responded and found the stroller folded up, but could not see what was inside so state authorities were called in.

"With everything going on with heightened security, you can't take chances," Mauro said.

MBTA Officer Larry Culbert and Dick Tracy, his explosive sniffing dog, went onto the train car and, after detecting no explosives, brought the stroller out.

"(Dick Tracy) would detect if there was any explosive components," Culbert said.

Commuters and anyone parked in the commuter lot were kept away.

"We kept people a safe distance just in case," Mauro said.

Most commuters relaxed on the grass while waiting to hear when they would be let back on the train.

However, CSX, the company operating the railroad tracks, sent a bus to shuttle people to Framingham where another train was waiting. Commuters were able to get personal belongings from all cars except the one containing the stroller.

Despite the nearly two-hour delay, most commuters were happy with the extra precautions. "Thank God they are cautious," said Donna Bertrand, who was on her way to the Joseph Moakley reception in Boston.

"At first they said it was a signal problem," Bertrand said. "Then it was a suspicious event, and we were told to move forward one car. About 10 minutes later, they told us to get off the train while because they found a suspicious package."

Dhiogo Ferreira, celebrating his 20th birthday yesterday, was late to his job at a cafe in Framingham. "I was supposed to be at my job at 3:30 p.m.," he said looking at his watch which said 3:15 p.m.

Ferreira told his aunt to call work and tell them he was going to be late.

The evacuation, as well as the DNC, added a little adventure to the Shanahans' family vacation. The family had come from California to look at possible universities.

Sean Shanahan said he had some school tours he would have to reschedule.

Margie, Sean's mother, said they made reservations to come to the East Coast prior to knowing about the DNC.

"It will be a memorable trip," said Margie Shanahan. "It is better to be safe."

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

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