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Suspicious package delays NJT train

(The following story by Richard Pearsall appeared on the Courier-Post website on August 14. Bob Daniels is Legislative Representative of BLET Division 373 in Trenton, N.J.)

HADDONFIELD, N.J. -- A train bound from Atlantic City to Philadelphia was delayed for about an hour Thursday morning as officials investigated a suspicious object on the tracks just south of the Haddonfield PATCO Hi-Speedline station.

The package turned out to be trash.

It was removed by NJ Transit police, and the train went on its way.

But how NJ Transit investigated the incident is a matter of some dispute.

Bob Daniels, an official with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, charges that the train's conductor was told by a NJ Transit dispatcher to investigate the package himself.

"I can't believe they would do this," said Daniels. "They buy 200 bomb-sniffing dogs, do all this anti-terrorism training, then send a conductor down to see if it's explosives?"

Janet Hines, a spokeswoman for NJ Transit, denied that anyone at her agency told the conductor to investigate the object.

"Communications said to wait until police arrived," Hines said. "Typically, we tell trains to let police do the investigation."

Hines said the engineer on the train noticed a suspicious package, the conductor called communications and communications said to wait until police arrived.

She said the train was delayed from about 10:45 to 11:45 a.m.

According to Daniels, a NJ Transit dispatcher notified the train's engineer that the police were looking at a suspicious object on the tracks in Haddonfield, at a point where the tracks run below street level.

Both NJ Transit and PATCO police were on the scene, Daniels said, but apparently lacked a ladder to descend to the tracks.

The conductor refused the order from the dispatcher to investigate himself, Daniels said, but extracted a seat-back from the train.

Police used the seat-back as a bridge to get from the ground to the top of the NJ Transit locomotive and from there down the locomotive ladder to the tracks.

A spokeswoman for the PATCO Hi-Speedline, Danelle Scott, said that PATCO police "assisted NJ Transit police" but said she was unable Friday to locate a report on the incident.

Monday, August 16, 2004

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