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Green Line driver involved in July crash pleads not guilty, is ordered not to drive personal vehicle except for family errands

MBTA Green Line operator Owen Turner at his arraignment in Brighton District Court Wednesday.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

The Green Line driver blamed for a trolley crash in Boston in July that injured dozens of passengers pleaded not guilty Wednesday to two criminal charges and was banned from driving his personal vehicle except to run family errands.

Owen T. Turner appeared in Brighton Municipal Court, where he pleaded not guilty to gross negligence of a person in control of a train and to gross negligence of a person having care of a common carrier. He was released on personal recognizance.

Turner declined to speak with reporters as he left the courthouse.

As a condition of his release, Judge David T. Donnelly ordered Turner not to drive his personal vehicle except to bring his son to school and to take his mother to her medical appointments.

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Turner lives with both his son and mother, Kelli Murray, who represented Turner in court, told the judge.

Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Kerry Feeney had asked Donnelly to block Turner from driving completely, but the judge chose the more limited restriction.

Turner earned $69,630 in fiscal 2021, $101,460 in fiscal 2020, $87,860 in fiscal 2019, and $78,900 in fiscal 2018, according to the state comptroller’s office. He has been suspended without pay from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in the wake of the crash and the criminal charges he faces.

Donnelly told Turner to have his own attorney when he is due back in court Dec. 8.

In a statement, District Attorney Rachael Rollins said her office is in close touch with the MBTA about a series of recent safety incidents, including a Red Line derailment last week.

“Everyone in Suffolk County deserves to be safe,” she said in a statement. “As District Attorney — and former General Counsel of the MBTA — I believe that the Commonwealth has a duty to those who use and therefore entrust their safety to our public transit system. The events of July 30 violated that duty and trust. This was a preventable crash that put the safety and wellbeing of Green Line passengers and MBTA employees at risk.”

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No new information was disclosed in court about the July 30 crash or the investigation by MBTA Transit Police that led to the charges. Citing court records, the Globe reported last month that Turner had a history of speed infractions at the T and said he could not remember what caused the crash.

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.

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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 miles 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.

Also, a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board showed that Turner put the train’s controller in “full-power position prior to the accident.”

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.

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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 that 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.

Taylor Dolven and John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


Andrew Brinker can be reached at andrew.brinker@globe.com. Follow him @andrewnbrinker.