Chicago Transit Authority officials on Friday moved to fire the operator of a Blue Line train that crashed into O'Hare International Airport as they almost simultaneously announced changes in the scheduling of rail operators.
Eight of the 32 passengers who were injured in the March 24 crash that had an eight-car train catapulting out of a rail pocket and onto an escalator have since filed lawsuits against the transit agency.
A termination notice was delivered to Brittney Haywood Friday morning, NBC 5 INVESTIGATES learned. That termination is effective immediately.
Haywood was fired because "she incurred two serious safety violations in the short time she has been an operator," the CTA said. Two serious violations is subject to discipline, up to and including termination, according to the collective bargaining agreement.
Haywood admitted she nodded off moments before the crash. She also dozed off while operating a train in February and passed the station at Belmont on the Blue Line.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 president Robert Kelly has publicly defended Haywood and blamed the way the CTA schedules motormen as a factor in the crash. The union vowed to fight efforts to terminate Haywood.
- March 24: 32 Injured in Crash
- March 24: NTSB Takes Over Investigation
- March 25: Union: Operator Appears to Have Dozed Off
Haywood's schedule changed every day, and she was required to call in to find out about her upcoming shift. CTA officials said Haywood worked 55 hours in the seven days prior to the crash but had 18 hours off before that shift. Union officials disputed that, saying she'd worked 69 hours in the week prior.
As a result, the CTA on Friday proposed changes in the way rail operators would be scheduled.
Among the proposed changes:
- Operators would only be allowed a maximum of 12 hours of actual train operations in a 14-hour time period. There currently is no maximum.
- The minimum rest time between shifts would increase from eight hours to 10 hours.
- Rail operators would be mandated to have at least one day off in any seven day period. There currently is no limit.
- New train operators would be limited to 32 hours of train operation per week for their first year of duty. There currently is no limit.
Haywood had been working as a motorman for about 60 days before the crash. She started with the CTA last year as a flag operator. She worked both jobs for the transit agency, depending on manpower needs.
The crash took the station out of commission for commuters for six days. NTSB investigators said an emergency stop system activated properly but failed to stop the Blue Line train. The crash caused an estimated $6 million in equipment damage.