Boston commuter train travels five miles without operator

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An MBTA train in Boston (Photo: WCVB via CNN)

BOSTON — A Boston-area commuter train with passengers aboard was brought to a stop Thursday morning after traveling five miles without an operator.

The incident began at 6:08 a.m. at the Braintree station on the MBTA’s Red Line, south of Boston, when the operator apparently stepped off the train to inspect a signal that was experiencing a problem, Gov. Charlie Baker said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

The operator then sustained minor injuries after being struck by the train he was supposed to be on as it pulled away, according to Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority spokesman Joe Pesaturo. No passengers were hurt.

Transit authority personnel shut off power to the third rail “within a couple of minutes of when it left” the Braintree station, Baker said, “but the train coasted because it had momentum at that point forward.”

The train went through four stations before it came to a stop past the North Quincy station.

MBTA personnel boarded the disabled train and drove it to the next station, where passengers were asked to gather their belongings and leave the train, according to Michael Verseckes, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

A passenger on the train told CNN affiliate WHDH that the lights went out when the train was stopped. Some passengers in the first car knocked on the door of the operator’s cabin and got no response, she said.

Passengers pressed emergency buttons and tried to open the train’s doors.

“My only concern was people trying to open the train when we don’t know what’s going on,” said the passenger, who was not identified. “There were people even trying to break the windows so we could get out.”

The train was taken out of service and was being examined.

“Inspection of the train determined that some of the controls had been manipulated,” Baker said. “It’s pretty clear that [the train] was set in forward motion, which is why it moved in the first place when the signal was manipulated.”

“We are looking at everything and exploring all options,” Verseckes said.

“Passenger safety is the highest priority for the MBTA and this highly troubling incident is under investigation by Transit Police detectives,” MBTA General Manager Frank DePaola said.