The operator of the MBTA Red Line train that carried about 50 passengers through several stops without a driver on Thursday used a cord to tie off the throttle and did not set the brakes before getting off the train, a source familiar with the investigation told necn.
The trip began shortly after 6 a.m. at the Braintree station and ended about nine minutes later when power was cut to the rails, transportation officials said. No passengers were hurt.
Stephanie Pollack, the state's transportation secretary, said the train's operator had sought and received permission to move the train despite a signal problem.
The operator, identified to necn as 51-year-old David Vazquez, got off the train to execute a procedure to put the train into "bypass mode." The employee suffered a minor injury when he was brushed by the train as it moved away from the station, transit officials said.
"When I heard the news, I knew it was him," Vazquez's mother told necn. "It's always problems on the Red Line."
Reached by cell phone, Vazquez hung up on necn. His mother, who did not want to be identified by name, says her family is struggling with what happened. She says her son is conscientious and wouldn't do anything to harm his passengers.
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"He was upset that the train left without him," she said.
Passenger Steve Lebbossiere said he thought this is an example of longtime MBTA workers find ways to get around system policy.
"It's just one of those things you're trying to get done quicker there's a thousand things in your head," Lebbossiere said.
Passengers, meanwhile, are fed up with the latest in a series of issues on the MBTA.
"It's a scary feeling," said passenger Dennis Williams. "I can imagine the thoughts that were running through people's heads as the train was running down the tracks."
"We are confident this was an isolated incident," Gov. Charlie Baker said at a noontime press conference on Friday. He said "multiple safety procedures" were not followed by one individual.
"This particular operator had to engage in a series of multiply prohibited acts for what happened to actually occur," Baker said.
The governor also acknowledged that the MBTA failed at its primary responsibility - passenger safety.
"We understand the fear, the shock, surprise" that Red Line passengers must have experienced, he added.
Pollack said the train operator is on paid administrative leave pending the results of an investigation. If it is determined that the operator did tie off or otherwise tamper with the throttle, known as a "cineston," she said that would be grounds for him to be fired.
"In any way wedging or restricting the movement of the cineston would in fact be a prohibited act that would subject the operator to termination," Pollack said.
She said the operator is cooperating with the investigation, and a final fact-finding hearing is scheduled for Monday morning.
Going forward, Pollack said employees will no longer be allowed to put trains into "bypass mode" unless a second operator is present.
"The safety of our passengers is job one," she said.
The train is believed to have traveled at a maximum of 25 mph before being brought to a halt. During that time, MBTA officials were not able to communicate with passengers.
Red Line trains previously had two operators on each train. That practice was ended in 2011, in part as a cost-saving measure.