ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) — It’s 9:30 p.m. after a Cardinals home game. A 10-year-old girl and her family are traveling home on a Metrolink train. The girl gets off at an East St. Louis stop, thinking her parents and sister are behind her. Seconds after getting off the train, the young girl turns to see the doors closed before her family can join her. The train speeds up, leaving the girl alone.
These terrifying moments have the girl’s family and other passengers who were on the train wondering if anything could have been done to prevent this.
News 4 Investigates obtained surveillance video from the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center platform, which shows how the train doors closed within two seconds of the 10-year-old boy getting off.
News 4 is not identifying the girl since her family did not want to be interviewed.
Julie Conley was also quitting the game and sitting in the same car as the family. She remembers the panic that immediately spread on the train.
“We start to walk away from the station and we hear this blood, I mean blood looping screams,” Conley said. “Father started running towards our part of the train and he says my daughter got off the train.”
Platform surveillance video shows how the doors closed as the girl’s father tried to get off the train. Passengers can be seen on the platform trying to wave to the driver.
Conley says inside the train, every passenger sprang into action,
“Everyone in our section was screaming,” Conley said. “Several people stood up and we are all saying to press the red buttons because above each of the doors there is a red button.
Conley refers to buttons labeled “passenger alarm” which work by sending an alert directly to the driver. Conley says the parents also used the emergency intercom to speak to the driver.
Metrolink trains do not have emergency stop buttons that passengers can press. The driver is the only one who can stop the train.
“The driver should have been able to go through the AP and say if there is a problem?” Conley added. “The train didn’t slow anything down.”
Instead, Conley says the train continued to the next stop, Washington Park, which is nearly two miles away. Conley remembers the family getting off and never a word from the driver.
“The train stopped directly at the next station,” she said.
At the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center station, Metrolink security video shows the train departing at 9:32 p.m. The video shows how people on the platform immediately tried to help the girl, including a man who used the emergency phone on the platform to call Metrolink Private Security.
In Metrolink’s audio recording of the call, you can hear the dispatcher asking the man to stay with the girl until deputies arrive.
The man accepts and the call ends. During the call, the Metrolink dispatcher never asked for the man’s name or contact information.
According to Metrolink records, this passenger made the first call to security. The train driver called him almost 5 minutes later, which he did as he left the next stop.
Around the time the train driver called security, surveillance video from the platform shows the camera started moving as staff located the girl and zoomed in on her.
At 9:40 p.m. about 10 minutes after the train left, two St. Clair County Sheriff’s Deputies show up and stay with the girl.
Meanwhile, at the Washington Park station, surveillance video shows the girl’s parents waiting and then rushing to catch a bus to join their daughter.
Metrolink surveillance video shows the family were reunited just after 10 p.m., nearly half an hour after they separated.
News 4 Investigates asked Metrolink why the family’s only option was to get off at the next stop and meet their daughter in the car.
“I won’t suggest to you that anything was done improperly,” said Kevin Scott, general manager of security at BiState Development, which runs Metrolink.
Scott says all emergency alerts and the train’s intercom system worked. Weekly maintenance records show the train was checked four days earlier and all went well.
“Before each shift, operators inspect the gear and button alarms,” Scott added.
According to Metrolink, the train’s emergency buttons send alerts directly to the driver, who must then call to safety. Scott says those steps were followed in this case.
News 4 Investigators found Metrolink records show the driver called him as he was leaving the next station, 5 minutes after the girl was separated.
When asked if there would have been a way to stop the train, Scott replied, “There is no emergency stop button on the train. When you press the emergency button that puts you in direct communication or alerts the operator that there is a problem.
News 4 Surveys checked other cities with above-ground subway systems to see what their emergency stop policies are.
In Chicago, the transit authority said if a train departs, a passenger should use the intercom to speak to the conductor, who will then notify security and station workers.
San Francisco, which has a larger rail system, says conductors should look out the window before moving the train to make sure there are no problems with passengers. They also have security personnel on the platforms who could intervene.
On Metrolink tracks, Scott says it all comes down to timing.
“The trains are only on the platforms for about 20 seconds,” he said.
Scott explained that conductors can hold trains on a platform, but once the train is in motion, that’s a different case.
“Once the doors are closed and the train is moving, the storyline will unfold as we chat,” Scott said. “I would suggest that if something happens and the door isn’t closed yet, block the door so the operator can’t close the door.”
Scott agrees that the man who helped the girl and made the first call for security was the best of times.
News 4 asked Scott, “Things could have ended very differently if it had maybe been someone else on the platform, as a parent, if you’re in this situation, what are you you supposed to do?”
Scott explained that Metrolink riders are a community. He added: “My recommendation would be and always will be, when you have a child with you, keep the child close to you, make sure you control where they go and what they do.”
Scott says it’s not a problem that comes up often and it’s the first time he’s seen it happen in his three years on the job.
“Does this happen often? It doesn’t happen often. Is it an anomaly for us when a child is separated from the system? It is,” Scott added.
Julie Conley hopes it stays that way, but knowing that the train hasn’t stopped leaves her with more questions than answers.
“How do I get help? Conley questioned.
Metrolink points out that everything worked as it should in this case.
Following News 4’s interview with Kevin Scott, Metrolink’s chief security officer, a spokeswoman sent News 4 a statement to add more information. In the statement, she wrote that drivers are the only ones who can stop a train and that using the emergency brakes can cause serious injury to the driver and passengers.
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