Tuesday, November 24, 2009


TriMet has put a MAX operator on paid leave pending a disciplinary hearing saying his actions contributed to Aiden Bailey, 3, being separated from his father at a Southeast Portland light-rail stop last week.

On Nov. 16, Aiden stepped off a Green Line train at the Southeast Main Street platform, holding his father's hand, when he accidentally hit the disabled ramp button.

Before Aaron Bailey could follow his son off the train, the doors closed, separating the pair.

Orianne Greene, a 22-year-old Portland State University student, took the boy's hand and waited with Aiden. Bailey returned about seven minutes later on another train.

A security video of the incident aired on national TV, including NBC's "Today" show and "Inside Edition," and quickly spread across the Internet.

TriMet said Monday that a thorough inspection found no problems with the train's doors or emergency intercom system.

According to TriMet spokesman Josh Collins, Aiden likely engaged the disabled ramp moments before the operator pushed a "door close" button in the train's cabin -- a preparation for leaving the station -- over-riding the door from reopening.

At that point, there was not much Bailey could have done, besides jamming his foot in the door, to reach his son, Collins said.

Bailey remained on the train, frantic, as it began to roll away. In a phone interview with The Oregonian Monday he said that that he repeatedly attempted to get the operator's attention via an emergency intercom system on board the train.

Bailey said TriMet's admission confirmed his "suspicions" that the emergency intercom was working that morning.

TriMet initially told The Oregonian that the train's intercom was broken. "We confirmed that there was a malfunction with the audio component of the intercom on this train, and that has been addressed," TriMet spokeswoman Bekki Witt said Friday.

That statement was revised Monday. According to Witt, the operator had claimed he was unaware that the emergency intercom had been pushed, and the agency assumed that a malfunctioning intercom had caused the problem.

But a review of the train's database and tests of the intercom during a re-creation of the incident showed that the intercom was functioning, activating both audible and visual cues in the train's cabin. TriMet now believes the operator ignored those cues, said Mary Fetsch, a TriMet spokeswoman.

"If someone pushed the emergency button four times, and the operator didn't respond, that's very serious," Fetsch said.

Bailey said he could hear the intercom ring twice in the speaker and then "it would go click," as if someone in the train's cab was disengaging the call, he said.

"I'm furious," Bailey said. "Quite honestly, I've never been this angry. The operator could have opened the door and he didn't bother. That was my son."

At the Gateway Transit Center, Bailey said he got the operator's attention and asked why he didn't answer his calls for help. He said the operator just closed the window on him without an answer and the train rolled away.
good-samaritan-helps-boy-6ec9cbe80074381e.jpgOrianne Greene
"He's very lucky Orianne that was there," Bailey said of the operator. "I remember the following morning, while boarding the same train, I saw two children in the cab with him. I thought, 'How ironic that he must have children or grandchildren in the cab with him.'"

Witt said only instructors are allowed in the cabins with operators. "We're not supposed to have extra people in the cabin," she said.

Bailey said he initially told TriMet that he would put the incident behind him if he received a face-to-face apology from the driver. "I would have ended it," he said. "I would have shook the gentleman's hand and said, 'We're all good.'"

But TriMet didn't even bother to return his first call about the incident until the local media started asking questions Thursday, he said. The agency has since apologized and given Bailey's family a one-year pass.

Now, Bailey doesn't know what he's going to do. He said he wanted to "reserve comment" on whether he would urge TriMet to fire the operator.

"The reason why I made this public," he said, "was because I felt TriMet needs to be more responsible for its riders."

The operator's name has not been released. TriMet said he will remain on paid administrative leave until a disciplinary hearing Wednesday, when the operator will face a range of disciplinary possibilities, including termination

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