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Operator says he ‘blacked out’ in light-rail crash

SHARE Operator says he ‘blacked out’ in light-rail crash

LINTHICUM, Md. (AP) — A light-rail train carrying passengers to Baltimore-Washington International Airport slammed into a steel safety barrier outside the airport's International Pier on Tuesday, injuring 22 people.

The 7:15 a.m. accident was the second this year involving a light-rail train approaching the stop at the busy airport.

Officials did not know how many passengers were on the train, but said most of the 22 injured were in the front car with the operator, identified as Dentis David Thomas.

Passengers were treated mainly for bruises, back and neck pain and contusions.

Thomas, who has driven light-rail trains since 1994, told police that he "blacked out" while pulling into the station, according to a police report. He was treated for minor injuries and submitted to drug and alcohol tests immediately after the accident, officials said. Results of those tests were not available.

The wreck left the front of the train crushed and ridden up onto the abutment at the end of the line, damaging the roof of the terminal, Mass Transit Administration spokesman Frank Fulton said. Investigators had not ruled out mechanical failure as the cause of the crash, he said.

Stephen Allen, chief of the airport fire and rescue department, said when firefighters arrived, there were people both inside and outside the train, with some lying on the ground outside.

Robert Davis, a passenger who injured his shoulder, said he had to manually open a door on the train to leave the car after the crash.

"The train started to slow down, I got up to get off, and it sped back up," Davis said.

Thomas, a 26-year veteran of the MTA, has had his driving record come under scrutiny after three minor accidents in 13 months.

Maryland Transit Administrator Ronald Freeland said Thomas was cleared in two of the incidents where motor vehicles ran into his train at rail crossings. But in July 1999, Thomas was suspended for three days after a car he was driving derailed in a railyard.

A similar light-rail crash at the BWI terminal in February injured 24, and led to the firing of the train's driver, who was accused of using prescription and illegal drugs.

The rail line connects the airport and Baltimore's Penn Station. The first leg of the light rail system, which also serves other points, opened in 1992.

On the Net: BWI airport: www.bwiairport.com

Mass Transit Administration: www.mtamaryland.com