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Railroad Supervisor Takes Break as Novice Employee Left in Charge and Allows Train to Enter Blocked Track, Killing a Rail Worker

(West Haven, Connecticut – May 28, 2013)

A fatal error made when an inexperienced employee, left unsupervised as his superior made a trip to the rest room, resulted in the death of a 27-year Metro-North employee as a New York-bound commuter train was switched onto a track over which rail traffic was to be prevented due to maintenance work being performed on a parallel track.

Robert Luden, 52, of East Haven, CT died when the New Haven-originating train was allowed to operate at 70 mph over track one, which had been blocked to all rail traffic while Luden, a Metro-North track supervisor, was directing a crew in moving rail from an adjacent track about noon Tuesday.

Secretary-Treasurer Chris Silvera of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 808, and a friend of the victim since the time he entered railroad service, charged that the error was certainly not the first of its kind on the commuter railroad, citing a recent similar error made in New York, NY, in which no one was injured.

Oversight for Metro-North’s operations originates at a rail traffic control center located in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, according to Silvera, who also said that rail traffic controllers working that particular shift had been suspended until further notice.

In his grief, Silvera stated that “It’s not fair to speculate. Robert was a friend of mine, so I have to restrain myself,” adding that “Those individuals will bear the scars for a long time.”

The tragedy occurred in the same general area that experienced a head-on collision between two Metro-North commuter trains that injured 60 passengers May 17.