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Union Members Mourn Operator, Respond to Crash

Shantella Y. Sherman | 6/24/2009, 10:56 p.m.

Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 President Jackie Jeter addressed a crowd of supporters and media to express their condolences for the loss of Metrorail driver Jeanice McMillan, killed in the Mon., June 22 Red Line collision that left nine dead and more than 80 injured. Jeter, flanked by officers of Local 689, said on Tue., June 23 that they are eager to find the cause of the accident, but not at the expense of offering speculative misstatements.

McMillan, 44, normally worked the evening rush-hour on the Red Line, which is 3 to 6 p.m., and like most Metro drivers, began her driving career on the Metrobus.

McMillan was remembered by her first union representative Earl Beatty, as a very hard-working single parent, whose proudest achievement was being able to send her only son to college last year.

€When I heard the news yesterday around 7 p.m., I was devastated and just broke down crying,€ said Beatty, 57.

€She was a bright, smiling person who often expressed how she wanted to move up in the ranks of Metro because she wanted a career, not just a job. We are all saddened losing her.€

€The union will immediately respond to quell any misstatements or attempts to misinform the public about liability or responsibility for the train crash,€ Jeter said as she read a statement outside Metro headquarters.

€As we have in the past, ATU Local 689 will insist on transparency in the probe and full disclosure of the facts. While it is not my intention to lay blame for the sake of blaming, it is my duty, as President of Local 689, to assess the information and the situation, make a determination based on that assessment and communicate to our membership and the public what I understand to be the facts and conclusions to be drawn from the facts,€ Jeter said.

Jeter was unwilling to speculate on the cause of the accident, but said that after drawing on her own experience as a Metrorail operator, she raised concerns within the union that some type of mechanical failure may be at the core of the crash.

Metro General Manager John Catoe embraces Local 689 President Jackie Jeter at the WMATA prayer vigil held outside Metro headquarters on Tue., June 23. Photo by Shantella Y. Sherman
€Our concern is that this was not supposed to happen. There are safety mechanisms in place on every train, no matter what Series the cars, to keep this from happening. As president of Local 689 and a former driver, the fact that the train did not [have these safety mechanisms] is a serious concern,€ Jeter said.

Metrorail€s braking system works in triplicate measure to ensure trains to do not collide.

The Central control system is where a master console provides a visual display of all cars operating within the system to note their position and proximity to other trains. Jeter explained that there is also a central relay system that automatically slows trains down as they approach other trains, whether in automatic or manual shifts.

When trains get within a certain number of feet from another train, it will stop. Finally, the train operator has the ability, unless hindered, to stop the train. Jeter said that even if one of these braking systems malfunctioned, the other two should have successfully stopped the trains from colliding.

€The trains Series 1000 to 6000 all have an automatic locking mechanism, and I know this for a fact because I used to operate a 1000. Several years ago the older models were enhanced, but no matter the series, one of those three braking systems should have kept this from happening,€ Jeter said.

Anthony W. Garland, Recording Secretary for Local 689, said that additional gatherings to offer support to grieving co-workers and remember McMillan are in the works.