MBTA probes handling of parcel left unattended on train

(The following article by Mac Daniel was posted on the Boston Globe website on July 15.)

BOSTON -- The MBTA is investigating whether a harmless package left unattended on a Rockport-bound commuter train this week was handled properly by the train's staff, officials said yesterday.

The train was between the Manchester and the West Gloucester stations Tuesday night when a passenger notified a conductor about a package on a seat, said Joe Pesaturo, spokesman for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

Other passengers told the conductor that the bag belonged to an unidentified regular commuter who had exited in Beverly, Pesaturo said. The conductor then radioed Rockport police about the unattended package while the train continued making stops in West Gloucester and Gloucester before being met by police at the Rockport commuter rail station, which police had evacuated.

The State Police bomb squad was later brought into examine the package, which turned out to contain a children's water slide, Pesaturo said.

A nearby ice cream shop was closed and a Little League baseball game was moved away from the station before the train pulled in. Rockport Police Chief Thomas McCarthy complained to T officials about what he described as the train crew's nonchalance and lack of communication, according to Pesaturo.

McCarthy also complained that the train's crew hadn't evacuated the car and hadn't stopped at the nearest stop, Pesaturo said. In addition, the MBTA sent other trains into the Rockport station while the train was in a separate yard.

Anna Barry, director of railroad operations for the MBTA, ordered the investigation into the actions of the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad crew.

''Did they exercise good judgment and act in a reasonable way or, under the circumstances, should they have gone right by the book and treated this as a suspicious package, stopped at the next station and evacuated the train and had police there?" Pesaturo said of the inquiry subjects.

Friday, July 15, 2005
bentley@ble-t.org

http://www.ble-t.org/pr/news/headline.asp?id=14031

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