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CTA Fires Operator In Blue Line Crash At O'Hare

Updated 04/04/14 - 1:04 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- CTA officials were taking steps to fire the train operator who fell asleep at the controls of a Blue Line train before it crashed at O'Hare International Airport last month.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports termination papers were being served on Brittney Haywood late Friday morning. She was hired by the CTA a year ago, and she began operating trains in January.

Brittney Haywood
Brittney Haywood proudly posted a photo of her CTA operator permit on Instagram after getting it in December 2013. (Credit: Instagram)

Haywood has admitted dozing off while operating a Blue Line train as it entered the O'Hare station shortly before 3 a.m. on March 24. She didn't wake up until the train crashed at the O'Hare terminal.

The train jumped the tracks and smashed into an escalator, forcing the CTA to close the O'Hare station for a week, while federal officials investigated and then CTA crews repaired the damaged platform.

Three dozen passengers were hurt, as was Haywood.

The National Transportation Safety Board said an automated braking system activated when the train entered the O'Hare station at about 25 mph, and the train was trying to stop, but it is unknown why the brakes failed to prevent the train from derailing.

Haywood has admitted dozing off at the controls of a train once before, according to the NTSB. In that incident, in February, she woke up as the train was pulling through a station, and at least one car of the train missed the platform, but the train did not miss the stop entirely.

The NTSB's preliminary findings on the crash are expected next week.

The CTA's contract with the Amalgamated Transit Union authorizes the agency to fire rail operators who have had two serious safety violations in a short period of time, and officials said the two incidents when Haywood dozed off qualify her for termination.

CTA Firing Train Operator In Blue Line Crash

In addition to firing Haywood, the CTA also proposed changes in the way it schedules train operators, to give them more time off, and less time on the job.

New work rules would include a limit of 12 hours of duty in a 14-hour time period. There is no current maximum.

Operators also wold get a minimum of 10 hours of time off between shifts, up from the current 8 hours. All rail operators would have to take at least one day off in a seven-day period. Currently there is no limit.

New operators would be limited to 32 hours operating a train each week in their first year running trains. Other time above 32 hours would be spent on other duties besides operating trains.

CTA spokesman Brian Steele said the new rules would not have affected Haywood.

"That operator had worked an average of less than 8 hours a day in the days leading up to the incident. The operator had 18 hours off prior to the incident," he said.

The union has claimed Haywood worked 69 hours in the seven days prior to the crash, but the CTA has disputed that, saying work records show she worked 55 hours over seven days and no shift was longer than 9 hours. The CTA also said she was off for 18 hours before the shift she was working when the train crashed.

The CTA already had implemented new rules at the O'Hare station, reducing the speed limit for trains entering the terminal from 25 mph to 15 mph. Trip arms, devices that automatically stop a train exceeding the speed limit, hav been moved further back from the end of the platform, to give trains more room to stop.

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