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Port Authority says human error led to T line derailment

| Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, 1:16 p.m.

Port Authority of Allegheny County on Monday blamed a derailment that halted T service to the North Side for more than two days on a light-rail train running through a stop signal in a Downtown tunnel.

The agency would not say, however, whom it blames for the Friday evening incident.

“We're at a point now where we know what happened. We still need to understand better why it happened,” said spokesman Jim Ritchie.

Port Authority suspended the train's driver with pay pending the outcome of an investigation, Ritchie said. Officials would not identify the driver.

The agency is trying to determine whether other employees played a role, including dispatchers or rail supervisors who might have given the driver bad information before the accident. Officials are reviewing the train's black-box and audio data.

“There's more people involved in the daily operation of the light-rail system than just (the drivers),” Ritchie said. “Our investigation will look at everyone who was involved in the operation that day.”

Steve Palonis, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, could not be reached for comment.

The train carrying nine passengers derailed about 9 p.m. between the Gateway and Wood Street stations. Paramedics took an unidentified man to UPMC Mercy, Uptown, with neck and back injuries that Ritchie described as “minor.”

Paramedics said another man refused treatment for an ankle injury. A woman who complained of chest pains said she would seek treatment on her own, paramedics said.

Ritchie said the train rolled through a stop signal and derailed as it tried to run on a section of track before a rail switch locked into place.

“The light-rail vehicle attempted to pass through a switch before it had fully moved and locked into the correct position. Subsequently, the light rail vehicle derailed,” Ritchie said.

The authority cut service to the North Shore until Monday morning, when normal service resumed.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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