CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Surveillance video was released that captured streetcar riders screaming and holding on in fear as Charlotte's new trolley rolled down a hill and then crashed into an SUV.
Officials with the Charlotte Area Transit System said Tuesday the cause of the crash appeared to be operator error.
- CLICK PLAY -- Raw video of the streetcar crash:
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On Saturday the operator stopped the streetcar at Presbyterian Hospital to let passengers off, but the doors did not deploy.
During the stop he forgot to flip one switch that changes control operations between cabs.
Video shows him fidgeting with another switch that releases the brake and the trolley started rolling away, out of control, reaching 25 mph, officials said. The streetcar normally runs up to around 15 mph, officials said.
The emergency brake wouldn't work because the switch the operator forgot to flip gives it power.
Dispatchers told him to crank a manual hand brake, but the operator didn't do it until after the streetcar rammed into the back of an SUV stopped at a traffic light at Elizabeth Avenue and Kings Drive, officials said.
"We felt fairly confident based on the inspection of the brakes and the daily inspections that are done on the vehicles that we did not have an issue of the braking systems. And we focus then on reviewing the video, understanding the sequence of events again," said CATS Interim Director John Muth.
The streetcar's operator is on paid administrative leave while the investigation continues.
Channel 9 learned he has 26 years of experience with CATS and has spent the last eight years operating light-rail cars.
His first ride with passengers on board the streetcar was last Friday, the day before the crash, city leaders said.
They said operators go through 12 weeks of training with 32 hours operating the LYNX Gold-Line trolleys.
CATS officials are putting operators through additional training on streetcars.
They are also doing supervised ride-alongs to make sure the cars are operated safely.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS:
10:27:08 Rail vehicle arrives at Hawthorne; operator begins process of moving from the Cab B end of the vehicle to the Cab A end of the vehicle.
10:27:17: Operator approaches Cab A, but does not reach up and switch the control from Cab B to Cab A. He then attempts to insert the brake handle; he has trouble accomplishing this task, which causes the brake to be released and the vehicle to roll. Because control was not switched from Cab B to Cab A, the emergency brake was not available to the operator. At this time the only brake available is the manual hand brake.
10:27:53: The rail vehicle continues to move and accelerate. The operator attempts to slow the vehicle with the emergency brake, and continues to attempt to insert the brake handle while ringing the alert bell repeatedly. The vehicle did not slow and continues accelerating.
Video shows vehicle making a turn from Hawthorne onto Elizabeth.
10:29:23: At this point, the operator contacts a rail operations control center. The rail operations control center tells him to apply the hand brake, which he does not do.
10:30:12 When the rail vehicle collides with an SUV that’s waiting, stopped at a red light at the Kings Drive intersection. The impact speed according to the police report was 25 mph. The rail vehicle then pushes the SUV off to the left, and the rail vehicle continues forward approximately 500 feet up Elizabeth Avenue.
10:30:37 Due to the incline the vehicle starts to come to a stop -- vehicle stops moving forward. Operator calls into rail operations control center asking for an ambulance and supervisor on site. Rail operations control center calls 911.
10:31:13 At this point the operator has not applied the brake, the rail vehicle starts rolling backwards slowly.
10:31:20 Rail vehicle starts to come to a rest but the braking system is not completely engaged. He instructs customers to remain calm and patient and that help is on the way.
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