We Finally Know What Caused That Runaway Red Line Train

Mystery solved.

Photo by Michael Day on Flickr/Creative Commons

Photo by Michael Day on Flickr/Creative Commons

Late last year, a Red Line train careened out of Braintree station without an operator, and traveled four stops and more than five miles before MBTA personnel were able to depower the third rail and bring the ghost train to a screeching halt in North Quincy. None of the 50 or so passengers aboard were injured. The veteran operator of 25 years, David Vazquez, was fired a few days later.

Thanks to a new, 73-page report released Tuesday by the Department of Public Utilities and the T, we have a clearer idea of what happened that December morning.

Vazquez had amassed a 13 MBTA rule violations, including five safety violations in 1995, 1997, 2006, 2011, and 2013. The first case was the most serious, and involved Vazquez derailed his train in the maintenance yard after he failed to follow instructions, the Globe reports.

In the December 10 runaway train incident, the T determined that Vazquez had wrapped his microphone cord around the train’s throttle in order to put on his gloves, and forgot to engage the hand brake. A source close to the investigation leaked this detail to the Globe in December.

“It was operator error, my fault,” he admitted in a statement to investigators. His lawyer has vowed to fight the dismissal.

The report also said that passengers tried using the radio to call for help. “Hello, hello, is anybody there? I am on the train with no driver,” one passenger said. MBTA officials say they are considering redesigning the throttle to prevent tampering, for which the transportation authority’s dismissed at least two other employees in the last 16 years.