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July 27, 1984 - Image 7

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Michigan Daily, 1984-07-27

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The Michigan Daily- Friday, July 27, 1984- Page 7
Trouble on the tracks
N. Y. tower operator accused of cocaine use

WASHINGTON (AP) - Two passenger trains Amtrak, said the tower operator had been charged
crashed head-on in New York City because a signal with violating Amtrak rules and was suspended pen-
tower operator mistakenly allowed the northbound ding the completion of an investigation.
train onto the track as the Southbound train, the head Riley told a Senate subcommittee the drug traces
of Amtrak said yesterday. found in the operator's urine were so small as to raise
The operator was suspended and charged with "serious doubts" that drugs had any affect on the ac-
violating Amtrak rules, and a urine test found traces cident.
of cocaine and "a cannabis derivative" in his blood- "We simply do not have enough data yet to deter-
stream, according to John Riley, head of the Federal mine whether that cocaine usage occurred at a time
Railroad Administration. Cannabis is another name near or contemporaneous with operation. It is very
for the marijuana plant. difficult to evaluate the potential impact of that test. I
But Riley said there was no proof drugs played any want to be very clear in saying that," Riley told the
role in Monday's accident, which killed one man and surface transportation subcommittee of the Senate
injured 115 people. Commerce,-Science and Transportation Committee.
W. Graham Claytor, president and chairman of In a written statement, Claytor told the subcom-
Dispatcher is responsible for
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Burlington Northern Wiegold refused to identify the dispatcher, saying
Railroad fired a dispatcher who allegedly made a "it would serve no public good."
mistake that caused last month's fatal, head-on In a statement, the railroad said, "The dispatcher
collision of two freight trains, a company spokesman issued orders for an eastbound train to leave Staples,
said yesterday. Minn., while two westbound trains were still on the
The dispatcher's union says it will appeal the same track. One of the westbound trains arrived in
dismissal of the employee, saying he was "a tem- Staples before the eastbound train departed. Neither
porary fill-in at that dispatcher's position" when two the eastbound nor westbound train's orders showed
coal trains collided near Motley on June 14. Three that another train was on the line or called for a
crewmen were killed. train to pull onto a siding for a train meet.
AL WIEGOLD, a public relations official for the St. "THE CREWS were not aware of another train
Paul-based railroad, said the dispatcher, who was being on the line until they were near a curve and
suspended soon after the accident, was dismissed 2,600 feet apart. This was not enough distance to stop
Wednesday after a company investigation into the and avert the collision."
crash confirmed preliminary findings that the crash Investigations of the accident by the National
resulted from an "error on the part of the dispat- Transportation Safety Board and the Federal
cher." Railroad Administration are continuing, Wiegold

mittee that "evidence has been developed that the
tower operator in F tower failed to throw and lock the
signal at Gate Interlocking in accordance with train
orders and instructions."
This, he explained "permitted train 168 the north-
bound New England Zip to pass the point at which it
should have been held." As a result, the Zip collided
with the southbound Shoreliner.
This tower operator has been charged with
violation of operational rules and instructions and
has been taken out of service pending the formal in-
vestigation that is required by union contracts,"
Claytor said.
head-on crash
noted.
Robert Johnson, president of the American Train
Dispatchers Association, said yesterday his union
will represent the dispatcher in appealing the
dismissal.
Johnson said the dispatcher had been in training
for the dispatcher's post since-March and was in his
second day on the job when the accident happened.
Brian Sweeney, another railroad spokesman, said
that although the dispatcher was "relatively new on
the job," he was "well-trained."
Autopsy reports filed with the NTSB showed that
two of the three crewmen killed, had enough alcohol
in their blood to be considered legally intoxicated.
Furman said the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal
Apprehension is conducting additional tests on blood
and urine samples from the bodies.

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