Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins announced Thursday that in one of her final acts in office, she is opening a criminal investigation into the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority following the Green Line crash of the last summer.
Green Line light rail operator Owen Turner was charged with negligence last fall in connection with the July 30, 2021 light rail crash. The crash happened around 6 p.m. when two Green Line trains collided on Commonwealth Avenue, injuring 27 people on board, including four train operators.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigation found the driver put the cart in the “full power position” before putting the other vehicle in the back. The MBTA announced the same day that it was taking action to fire the driver.
“Mr. Owen was driving three times the speed limit at the time of the accident. As his co-workers and supervisors knew, he had a reputation for speeding and a history of violations,” Rollins said in a statement. . “The MBTA had a duty to remedy the reckless behavior of its employees. The agency failed in its legal duty to take meaningful action in light of the real safety risk these acts created. We will review whether the T’s behavior, or lack thereof, warrants criminal action.
An MBTA representative said Thursday that the agency is not commenting on pending litigation, but noted that it is working to install collision avoidance technology on the Green Line.
“The MBTA has been cooperating with the District Attorney’s Office since the summer, and the T will continue to do so,” they said in a statement. “Following September’s preliminary findings from the National Transportation Safety Board, MBTA acted quickly to remedy the conduct of the rail operator, who was responsible for the collision. MBTA will continue to emphasize safety in its programs. employee training, and the T will hold any employee accountable for actions that negatively impact customer service or safety.”
Outgoing Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins joins Kwani Lunis to share her journey as she prepares to be the next U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. She also explains why legal representation is important, how athletics can play a huge role in leadership and more.
Under state law, to prove corporate liability, prosecutors must show that an individual committed a criminal offense, that individual must have been involved with the business to be charged, and that the individual must have been empowered to act on behalf of the company. Rollins said his office has already accused several employers in this way.
“When an employer deliberately turns a blind eye to one of his employee’s dangerous and reckless acts, he becomes complicit in that behavior. When the actions of these employees rise to the level of criminal conduct, there are circumstances in which an employer can and should also be held criminally liable for an employee’s actions,” Rollins said. “Owen Turner presents one of those circumstances.”
The district attorney also cited several other recent ‘failures and tragedies’ involving the MBTA, including a jogger who died after falling down a dangerous staircase at JFK station and an incident in which dozens of individuals were sent back. in a faulty escalator at Back Bay station. , injuring several people.
Two families are now suing the MBTA and Kone, the company hired to maintain the escalators.
“State agencies are accountable to the public they serve. And this two-month period shows that we deserve better from the MBTA,” Rollins said. “When their acts and omissions endanger the safety of community members and their own employees, sometimes the only way to change things is through the courts and public action requests. That’s why we are making this official announcement today.”
Rollins is stepping down as district attorney this week and is expected to be sworn in as U.S. attorney for Massachusetts on Monday.