(Wilmington, Massachusetts – January 22, 2022)
A 68-year-old woman from Wilmington, Massachusetts was killed by a MBTA train Saturday at a malfunctioning crossing signal system just before 6:00 pm. The victim, Roberta Sausville, was driving on Middlesex Avenue when she attempted to cross a railroad crossing where the lights and gates were not flashing. Unbeknownst to her, MBTA employees were testing the signal system earlier in the day but did not return the signal system to normal operations. According to multiple witnesses, the gates at the crossing did not come down until after the collision.
Sadly, tragedy resulting from a railroad employees’ failure to return the crossing signal system back to normal operations has occurred many times prior to this past weekend. About 20 years ago, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a safety report on a very similar incident when a Union Pacific railroad signal maintainer forgot to remove a jumper after performing routine maintenance. Similar to this incident, the signal system did not activate and two people were killed due to the railroad employee’s failure to remove jumpers. After this NTSB report, most railroads issued very strict procedures to ensure jumpers are not accidently left in crossing signal systems after routine maintenance. It is unclear if the MBTA has the same procedures, and if so, why they were not followed here.