MAX operator fired after boy separated from father

MAX operator fired after boy separated from father

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by Anne Yeager and KGW.com Staff

kgw.com

Posted on November 20, 2009 at 1:11 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 25 at 4:50 PM

PORTLAND -- A MAX operator was fired Wednesday after the separation of a father from his 3-year-old son at the Main Street platform last week.

TriMet said the operator ignored four calls on the emergency intercom system on November 16, which created a potential danger.

KGW identified the driver as Paul Cooper.

“This operator’s actions were unacceptable,” TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen said. “They also do not represent our 1,300 operators who everyday deliver quality service to thousands of riders.”

Bailey said that the MAX train's door closed before his son, Aiden, could climb aboard.

Bailey was taking his son to Head Start.  The Green Line was approaching the Main Street Platform when the doors opened.As Aiden stepped out onto the platform, the doors shut, separating the child from his father.

"I frantically tried to push the open button, but they didn’t open, “ Bailey said. 

A Good Samaritan who had been standing on the MAX platform took Aiden by the hand and waited on the bench, according to a statement issued by TriMet on Nov. 20.

Cooper was suspended earlier in the week.

TriMet inspected the intercom system and re-created the incident, determining there was no mechanical malfunction.

In a statment Friday, the Amalgamated Transit Union spokesman Jon Hunt said the agency was too eager to "throw (the) operator under the train.

"Before doing any investigation whatsoever, TriMet managers announce to the press that they intend to discipline the operator of the train.  The question everyone should ask is 'why is TriMet management so quick to point the blame away from themselves and onto the operator?'"

Hunt added that MAX operators and passengers complained about malfunctioning communication equipment on the new trains and the manufacturer about these issues but there has been no resolution.

"TriMet managers knew about this problem even before the Green Line to Clackamas was opened to the public.”

Bailey said he pushed the intercom at least 10 times without response. No one answered, he said.

"I had him in my hand ... when he was exiting he pulled the handicap button, “ Bailey explained. "I frantically tried to push the open button, but they didn’t open."

Bailey said he exited the train at the next stop, crossed, and took the first train heading back toward his son.

The boy waited approximately seven minutes with the Good Samaritan, TriMet said.

"We embraced and I cried for a minute and then I hugged her (the Good Samaritan) and we cried for a minute,” Bailey said.

Once the relief passed Bailey became angry with the operator's response and questioned why the train doors had closed on his son, and why the operator did not answer the intercom calls.

Bailey told KGW Wednesday on he was sad that the firing had to happen, but that TriMet had to set a precedent.

"When this all started, I would have been happy with  personal apology. With Tri-met’s admission, I hope he’ll (the operator) be held accountable in the future," Bailey said.

Did you see this incident - or do you know how to contact the Good Samaritan who helped? Send us an E-mail

The Baileys received family passes for a year and an apology.

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