SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah Transit Authority employee has been terminated for failing to follow the company's procedures and protocols, resulting in a FrontRunner commuter train crashing into a FedEx semi-trailer earlier this month.
The dramatic accident, which happened on January 21 in North Salt Lake, was captured on video (above). As seen in the video, the railroad crossing arms were up and the flashing lights and bells that would normally signal an approaching train were not active.
UTA investigator Dave Goeres told FOX 13 the sensor that normally detects when a train is passing and activates those safety features had been blocked by weather conditions. UTA has a protection system that causes the crossing arms to drop in such a situation, in order to prevent any accidents.
But a UTA employee who responded to the scene to investigate the sensor allegedly bypassed the protection system, against the company's Standard Operating Procedures, which made the road/train intersection vulnerable to accidents.
“We have determined that the gates were raised by a UTA employee who responded to the scene, and the accident was caused by human error. The investigation verified that the signal system functioned properly, and went into a safe, down and active mode, as it’s programmed to do,” said UTA Chief Safety and Security Officer Dave Goeres in a statement sent to FOX 13.
The statement goes on to explain that the company's standard procedures state that the protection system is to be in place and verified with operators prior to getting authorization to raise the gates, but this did not occur in the January 21 incident.
"UTA wants to take this opportunity to reiterate that safety is our top priority and our system is safe. However, we would like to emphasize that our workers and the public should always be aware of their surroundings when near rail crossings and rail cars. It is safe to cross at road crossings when the red lights are not flashing—however, people should never enter a rail crossing if the lights are flashing and should never go around a lowered gate," the statement said.
No one was seriously injured in the incident.