Passenger Rail News

BLET continues defense of member after NTSB report on 2005 Metra accident

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) is continuing to defend Metra Locomotive Engineer and BLET Member Michael Smith in light of a post-accident report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in mid-December.

A Metra derailment in August 2005 resulted in two passenger fatalities and 117 injuries. The NTSB placed the largest part of the blame on Engineer Smith and concluded that he had been inattentive to signals directing his train through 10 mph crossovers between 70 mph main line tracks.

BLET Vice President Richard Radek is defending Engineer Smith. He said that the NTSB's findings were heavily based upon post-incident tests and downloads from the dispatching and signal systems that showed no apparent malfunctions of the systems prior to the derailment.

"By Metra's own admissions during Engineer Smith's disciplinary investigation, he was the finest engineer they had ever seen come out of the training program. He was not prone to being inattentive," Radek said. "As many engineers know, post-accident tests do not always turn up the problem or glitch that caused a false positive signal indication. We are convinced this is the case here."

BLET's Metra General Chairman Michael Taylor and Vice President Radek are handling the appeal of Engineer Smith's dismissal.

"We are hopeful that an arbitrator will give consideration to the evidence presented at the disciplinary hearing of the more than 70 documented false positive signal indications, including two on the Metra system, that occurred on the nation's railroads in the 12 months immediately prior to the Metra derailment," Radek said. "We believe NTSB should not have ruled out a signal malfunction as a possible proximate cause of the derailment."

Engineer Smith's case is expected to be heard by a federally-appointed arbitrator in the Spring of 2007.




© 2007 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen