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August 1, 2002
9:10 AM   Subscribe

A man has a heart attack on commuter train. The train's crew arranges for paramedics to be at an accessible train station. The train makes two more regular stops before said train station! What was this crew thinking? Is the almighty buck more important than a guy's life?
posted by heybate (22 comments total)

 
The station isn't accessible to paramedics? Are they in wheelchairs or something?
posted by dr_dank at 9:15 AM on August 1, 2002


At those two stops, West Newton and Newtonville, the commuter rail stops are parallel with the Mass Pike, which is a sunken highway, and they're also sunken. There are 25' tall stairways leading from the tracks to the road. Perhaps they thought that paramedics wouldn't be able to maneuver a stretcher down and up the stairs.

Regardless, the train should have gone straight to Back Bay.

Thank you, MBTA!
posted by solistrato at 9:25 AM on August 1, 2002


Many times, in a crisis situation, you don't think clearly. It would be easy for us to second guess the motives of the crew, but that would hardly be fair. Unless you were there, on the train when it happened, you can't really know what was going on.
posted by ColdChef at 9:27 AM on August 1, 2002


A New York Times article on this incident.
posted by Tin Man at 9:27 AM on August 1, 2002


yep, i doubt the crew were actually thinking about money when they made the stops. some people just don't think, period.
posted by tomplus2 at 9:29 AM on August 1, 2002


would there be other commuter trains in front of this one to worry about. Sure would be bad to wreck two trains into each other on account of one mans life. ... Not to say thats the case.
posted by howa2396 at 9:34 AM on August 1, 2002


I guess it has little to do with money and more to do with how to react in a crisis situation. Having never been in a similar situation, I don't know exactly what I would do, but my first instinct would definitely be to get this guy to a hospital as quick as I could.
posted by heybate at 9:34 AM on August 1, 2002


Adding to the poor communication which may have caused this to happen, the Globe was apparently reporting yesterday (incorrectly) that the man was still alive:

[M]edia outlets, including the Globe, were unable to get updated information on Allen from BMC and erroneously reported that he was alive as of early yesterday. Even Amtrak's statement said he had died yesterday. [Globe article linked above]

Some excuse, when they obviously had Amtrak's statement. The NYT article rebuts this somewhat:

... The Globe had originally been given information on Mr. Allen's condition by someone in emergency medical services when the hospital would not provide it. Globe reporters made phone calls later in the day to check on Mr. Allen, but hospital officials would not give out any information, Ms. Donovan said.

Vanessa DeGier, the Boston Medical Center spokeswoman, said no reporters had checked with her office, the only one at the hospital authorized to provide such information.
[NYT article linked above]

I'm not saying that poor reporting is equivalent to not following emergency procedures, but in the case of a fatal accident like this, shouldn't there be a greater concern for getting the correct information?
posted by ungratefulninja at 9:46 AM on August 1, 2002


I doubt the crew was thinking of the "almighty buck", but they clearly used atrociously bad judgement. They and the railroad are going to be sued like crazy, there's no question.

There have been similar incidents on airplanes; remember a couple of years ago there was a spate, and then several airlines moved to have portable defibrillators onboard (the FAA judged, probably correctly, that it would save too few lives to make it mandatory). Most airlines have a "nearest airport" policy for medical emergencies. Either the train should have met the paramedics at the nearest stop, or gone express to the one where they would meet. And they definitely should have deferred to the EMS judgement regarding where to meet.

Railroads generally have arrangements for alternate transport by bus in case of train delays etc. They could have activated this (probably at some cost, true) for the passengers who missed their stops.
posted by dhartung at 9:54 AM on August 1, 2002


... Susan Bergeron, the assistant conductor who administered CPR to Mr. Allen, said in an interview with WCVB-TV, "I have no problem with the decisions that the crew made on that train."

Ms. Bergeron added: "People don't understand what's going on behind the scenes. We're operating on CSX tracks." She said CSX rules forbid trains to make unauthorized stops or to ride through a station without stopping.
[from the NYT article]

I can't believe that the person who's supposedly trying to save the victim's life would say such a thing. It's "process" getting in the way of saving a life, and it's inexcusable.
posted by dayvin at 9:58 AM on August 1, 2002


First we have threads that deal with frivolous lawsuits, now there's a story where a lawsuit probably will have some merit. Obviously the train line and crew involved know so, that's why all the finger pointing has started.
posted by Salmonberry at 10:02 AM on August 1, 2002


I understand that something like this happened back in the early 1960s, when the BMTA was known simply as teh MTA. A man, whose first name was (as I recall) Charles, boarded a train at Kendall Square Station, where he handed in what was then the 10 cent fare. Then he changed for Jamaica Plain. There, the conductor told him that because of a recent change in the fare policy, he need to pay an extra five cents. Charles, unfortunately, had only brought a dime. As a result, he was unable to get off the train. At the time, it was widely believed that he never returned, and as far as the latest Google and Nexis searches can tell me, his fate is still unlearned. The most recent available quote from Charles indicated his dismay at being unable to see his sister in Chelsea or his cousin in Roxbury. I'm simply tell you this to let you know that the insensitivity of the BMTA is not a recent thing. They've been like this for years.
posted by Faze at 10:08 AM on August 1, 2002


Faze.. *rollseyes* lol
posted by LinemanBear at 10:12 AM on August 1, 2002


Perhaps the crew was on amphetamines
posted by xiffix at 10:20 AM on August 1, 2002


The Newtonville stop is within walking distance of me. While the stairs may seem skinny I do think a stretcher would fit through.

I'm sure it is quite confusing to follow all the rules of three(3) different agencies.

CSX who owns the railroad tracks

MBTA who owns the trains

Amtrak who operates the service
posted by LinemanBear at 10:26 AM on August 1, 2002


Many times, in a crisis situation, you don't think clearly. It would be easy for us to second guess the motives of the crew, but that would hardly be fair. Unless you were there, on the train when it happened, you can't really know what was going on.
spoken like a president with dead skyscrapers on his watch.
posted by quonsar at 10:50 AM on August 1, 2002


So if they had dropped him off to wait for medical attention at the closest station accessible to a hospital they would be sued for leaving a dying man to wait for medics that may not have been able to reach him? Seems like a no win situation where it is easy to say speed up the train during rush hour to miss stops, but say the train was from Providence to Boston where the trip is longer and not as accessible and a heart attack happens then what? Seems the train did the best it could given the situation.

Same goes for packed Green line trains during Red Sox games. No way people can unpack a train to speed up in an emergency they are always backed up.
posted by brent at 10:51 AM on August 1, 2002


I will point out that the MBTA service is atrocious. Service is so poor that last year they started a campaign that gave the passengers a bill of rights (cannot remember actual name) Attitudes of the conductors (on my line) is possibly the worst I have ever seen. Their railroad pales in comparison to the MTA in NY. Just glad I don't have to use it for commuting purposes, only weekend jaunts into Boston.
As for being sued? Hugely I would think. Wrongful death, or contributing to it, negligence. They need a good shake up somewhere in there system. That is for sure. And I haven't even told my best story yet either.
posted by a3matrix at 11:31 AM on August 1, 2002


I will point out that the MBTA service is atrocious.

That's funny because five or six years ago, when I still lived in Boston, I would have agreed with you. Now after five years of trying to navigate San Francisco via MUNI, I've come to regard the T with awe. Trains that actually go places beyond downtown! Seats that are relatively piss-free! Buses that don't break-down, crash, or run over pedestrians! And all for less than a $1.

I'm serious though -- the T is pretty damn good when you compare to many other public transportation systems. NYC is simply in a league of its own.
posted by megnut at 2:23 PM on August 1, 2002


First of all, nice one, Faze.

Second, I was riding the Green line one night last year, the train was packed, and suddenly they announced the train was no longer in service, and we all had to get off. However, after half of us got off, the doors closed and it sped off. Not sure what that was about.

Third, in their defense, it was probably easier to make the stops than deal with a lot of pissed off passengers yelling about missing their stops, making it more difficult to help the man once the doors did open.
posted by Miss Beth at 6:45 PM on August 1, 2002


Easier does not always equate with appropriate, though, Miss Beth. It would've been easier for them to ignore a dying or dead man in the seats and go about business as usual until the train was taken off service at the end of the shift, then his body could've been picked up with the rest of the litter. That doesn't mean that it would've been appropriate.

The most important factor in saving a heart attack victim is time. The moments wasted in making the additional stops could very well have cost this man his life. I cannot wait for the very large verdict in his family's favour.
posted by Dreama at 8:04 PM on August 1, 2002


Maybe some of the people who needed to get off the train were on their way to save other people.
posted by glenwood at 8:08 AM on August 2, 2002


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