A 50-year-old trolley operator, who had a history of speeding infractions at the MBTA, is facing criminal charges in a late July crash on the Green Line in Boston that resulted in dozens of injuries, according to court records.
Owen Turner of Boston is facing charges of gross negligence of a person in control of a train, and gross negligence of a person having care of a common carrier, according to the records. The crash happened July 30 on Commonwealth Avenue.
MBTA Transit Police, who sought charges in Brighton District Court, said Turner initially told them he had no memory of the moments before the crash, according to a police report filed in court.
Reached Thursday evening, Turner declined to comment.
Court records show Turner told police that, after receiving a white signal light indicating he was cleared to proceed to the next stop, “he does not remember anything” before his trolley rammed into the one in front of it. Trolley operators are supposed to maintain a 500-foot distance between each other while in motion on the Green Line, according to the court records.
“Turner stated, everything seemed to be ‘foggy,’ as he has a lapse of memory,” the report said.
Turner told police at the crash scene that he did not fall asleep, but told officers the next day that he thought he fell asleep. “We inquired if he did fall asleep and Turner responded he, ‘thinks,’ he did,” police wrote.
Police said that in a third interview with Turner, on Aug. 12 at Transit Police headquarters, there were “inconsistencies” with his initial story. They also said he revealed he had been suspended multiple times for speeding in his trolley.
Turner had “a history of operating Green Line trolleys at speeds in excess of the posted speed limit,” the report said.
Investigators said in the report that Turner had been “suspended on six different occasions for a total of one hundred and fifty-seven days, to include being issued a ten-day suspension/Final Warning on July 2, 2016, for ‘speeding’ while operating a Green Line trolley.” The report cited three instances in 2020 in which he allegedly operated Green Line trolleys above the speed limit, including an April 10, 2020, instance in which he was allegedly traveling 43 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone.
Turner also told investigators, when asked, that he was considered by his colleagues to be a “fast” operator, the police report said.
Joe Pesaturo, spokesman for the MBTA, said Tuesday the agency is taking steps to terminate Turner after a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board showed he put the train’s controller in “full-power position prior to the accident.”
“The delivery of safe and reliable service is the MBTA’s top priority, and the MBTA took swift action following the July 30th incident to place the operator on leave,” he said in an email Thursday. “The MBTA appreciates the work of Transit Police investigators and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.”
Data downloaded from Turner’s trolley indicated it was traveling 31 miles per hour in a track area where the speed limit was 10 miles per hour. It also indicated the brakes were never applied before the collision, the report said.
The police report also included the accounts of the three other T personnel who were on the trolleys involved in the collision.
Takisha King, who was operating the front car of the lead train, said she heard a “loud bang, followed by screaming.” She said she observed a number of injured passengers, including one female passenger who had “her knee popped out and torn apart.” Another female passenger was lying on the floor of the car with an apparent neck injury, King told police.
The report said police had determined that there was no outside element such as solar glare, or signal or track malfunctions, that interfered with Turner’s ability to safely operate the trolley. Police said records indicated that Turner did not have his cellphone at the time of the crash and he was not using his Apple Watch. He told police he had worked for the MBTA for about seven years, according to the court records.
The Carmen’s Union Local 589, which represents MBTA operators, said in a statement, “The union has been able to provide input into the MBTA and NTSB reporting processes on this incident and will continue to help ensure rider safety, operator safety, and due process are prioritized in all next steps.”
The Suffolk district attorney’s didn’t immediately have a comment. Turner is slated to be arraigned in court on Oct. 6.
The crash happened at about 6 p.m. on July 30 on the B line on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston near Harry Agganis Way, before the Pleasant Street stop, according to the police report filed in court.
Transit Police said two two-car trolley sets were heading west from Park Street Station to Boston College Station when the set operated by Turner rear-ended the trolley ahead. Twenty-three passengers were taken to hospitals for injuries that were not life-threatening. A 24th passenger was self admitted to the hospital the next day. Three trolley personnel were taken to the hospital, including Turner, for injuries such as hip and back pain. One trolley worker declined treatment, the police report said.
John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Andrew Brinker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @andrewnbrinker. Martin Finucane can be reached at email@example.com. Taylor Dolven can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @taydolven.