RTD: Speed caused R Line train derailment in Aurora last month

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AURORA | A train operator traveling three times faster than the recommended speed is what caused an RTD light rail train to come off the tracks and seriously injure multiple people in Aurora last month, RTD officials announced Friday.

RTD has fired the unidentified operator for failing to comply with safety protocols, according to RTD officials. The driver had previously been placed on administrative leave.

“Light rail operators are trained to slow their trains when approaching sharp turns on the track,” RTD officials wrote in a press release. “Since it was found that this operator was not following safety protocol, RTD has terminated the operator.”

The southbound R Line train was traveling about 30 miles per hour when it came off the tracks during an early morning snowstorm on Jan. 28, RTD officials said.

Operators are trained to slow light rail cars to about 10 miles per hour when approaching sharp curves.

Multiple passengers were tossed across the cabin as the train rounded a turn near Sable Boulevard and East Exposition Avenue.

One woman was ejected from the train and one of her feet was severed, according to witness reports.

Several other passengers on the train were treated for minor injuries, Aurora police said shortly after the incident.

In the release issued Friday, RTD said the derailment caused “serious injuries to multiple passengers.”

Pauletta Tolinas, a spokesperson for RTD, said the organization is still waiting to receive an official report detailing the total number of people injured in the incident.

“This unfortunate incident is troubling to me and the whole RTD organization, which is committed to providing safe service every day,” David Genova, RTD General Manager and CEO, said in a statement. “This is an extremely rare situation that we have never experienced in RTD’s nearly 25 years of light rail operation, and we’re doing all we can to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

Officials said the operator complied with protocol immediately after the derailment and stopped the train.

The light rail car and “relevant infrastructure” involved in the incident were determined to be safe following the derailment, according to RTD.

While the car involved in the derailment is not currently in service, it will be repaired and re-added to the fleet, according to Tonilas.

Investigators have examined the light rail car involved in the incident, computer simulations and “accident re-creations” to inform their probe in recent weeks, according to RTD.

RTD officials are expected to provide additional details regarding the derailment as their investigation progresses. Aurora police are also conducting a separate investigation.