MBTA, Staff Officials Issue Statements On Fatal Accident At North Wilmington Station; Early Investigation Suggests ‘Human Error’ May Be At Fault

Statement From MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak

On Friday evening, an MBTA Commuter Rail train was involved in a collision with devastating consequences. A motor vehicle was struck by a train at a railroad crossing on Middlesex Avenue in Wilmington. The driver of the vehicle, Roberta Sausville of Wilmington, died as a result of the crash. On behalf of the MBTA and our Commuter Rail operator, Keolis, I want to offer our deepest sympathies to Ms. Sausville’s family and friends in this difficult period of shock and sadness.

I’d also like to let her loved ones and the entire community know that we are making significant progress in establishing the facts and circumstances of this terrible tragedy. While the investigation remains very active, we have learned enough to report preliminary findings. Human error is the primary focus of investigators from MBTA Transit Police, State Police and the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office.

Less than an hour before the accident, a signal maintainer for Keolis was performing regularly scheduled testing and preventative maintenance of the railroad crossing’s safety system. Following the testing, our preliminary finding is that the safety system was not returned to its normal operating mode. This failure resulted in the crossing gates not coming down in a timely manner as the train approached Middlesex Avenue. Investigators have not found any defects nor any other problems with the various elements that comprise the infrastructure of the railroad crossing system.

After investigators have completed their work, there will be a final report on the cause of this heartbreaking accident, as well as a summary of what measures the MBTA and Keolis will take to avoid this situation ever occurring again.

Statement From Wilmington’s State Delegation

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), Representative David Robertson (D- Tewksbury), and Representative Kenneth Gordon (D – Bedford) released the following statement regarding a fatal accident at the North Wilmington MBTA Commuter Rail Station.

“We are saddened by the loss of Roberta Sausville in this tragic accident and our condolences go out to her family, friends, and the Wilmington community.

In the wake of this terrible tragedy, we have been in contact with representatives of the MBTA and Wilmington town officials. We will continue to work with them, the town’s police and fire departments, and others as necessary in order to ensure the safety of all who transit this area at the grade crossing serving the North Wilmington MBTA station now and in the future.

There needs to be a full understanding of, and accounting for, the events that caused the death of Ms. Sausville.”

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