DART investigating incident where passengers abandoned stalled cars

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on June 17, 2011 at 9:35 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 17 at 9:56 PM

DALLAS - DART officials worked to investigate what led to passengers leaving a broken down train Thursday.

After the Mavericks victory celebration parade, fans boarded DART trains downtown heading north. DART said one Red Line train broke down at a1:08 p.m. in the tunnel under the Central Expressway. By 1:33 p.m., the operator reported passengers were off the train.

The question is why they got off and what can be done to avoid the situation again.

DART passengers shot video and provided it to News 8 when they got off the stalled train between City Place and Mockingbird stations after waiting, they say, for some 40 minutes.

But, DART spokesman Morgan Lyons said the PA system worked on the two-car train and the operator claimed he followed policy.

“Standard procedure is for the operator to make an announcement to the customers that there's been some sort of a problem and we will be delayed for awhile," he said.

DART said the operator also told investigators he announced before he turned on and off the power with the hope of resetting a computer.

But, passengers like Gerald Walker told News 8 they heard nothing.

”If a train gets stuck in a tunnel, they need to communicate and keep people calm because there was a lot of panicking going on in that tunnel," Walker said.

DART said the train stopped from a broken air hose. When coupled to a train behind it, the back-up train broke down briefly, and DART says passengers from all four cars started leaving.

DART said the opening and leaving of the cars was illegal and dangerous since southbound trains kept running.

But, given passengers said they had no information, Lyons said it's understandable.

“For whatever reason, the passengers made that decision," he said. "It wasn't a safe decision, but they made it. We need to find out in talking to them, we'll found out why they did that.”

DART officials said an emergency button inside the cars worked and the operator said he responded at least once. The agency also checked a track-side phone that also worked.

DART is reminding all its train operators they're required to make PA statements when a train breaks down and is also looking at a back-up system where the train control center could also make announcements over a car's speakers.

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