WESTERLY, R.I. (WPRI) — Amtrak continues to investigate after a conductor fell to her death last weekend at the Westerly station.
According to Westerly police, the train was pulling into the station on Saturday when something caused the 26-year-old Massachusetts woman to slip and fall underneath the train. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
“It wasn’t really a matter of if it was ever going to happen, it was just when, and unfortunately, it happened the other day,” said Mike Callanan, a rail safety expert and former Amtrak conductor. “I kind of figured something like that would happen eventually, just because of the practice of how they do what they do.”
Callanan, who said he’s familiar with the Westerly station since he used to operate trains through there, explained that the station is unlike most others because it has a low-level platform. Conductors have to put stairs down for passengers rather than just opening the doors, which he believes is a safety hazard.
“On a high-level platform, normally the stairs aren’t down. You just stand in the doorway,” he said. “But I’m guessing she was using the stairs to perform that position and she lost her balance and slipped and fell underneath the train.”
“I think they could make the station safer, make it compliant with all the other stations on [a] high-level platform that’s level with the train,” Callanan continued.
The job the conductor was performing at the time, according to Callanan, is called the flagging position, where they watch the train approach or leave the station with the door open. He believes if the doors were closed, her fall wouldn’t have happened.
“Even if you just have the door open on the train – a moving train – someone’s going to fall out of the train, and unfortunately they did,” he said. “I feel sorry for her family and the husband and also the coworkers. It’s a very tight group of people. They put in long hours. The railroad is a very dangerous and unforgiving environment. When this kind of thing happens, it affects everybody.”
In a statement Tuesday, a spokesperson for Amtrak said they’re “deeply saddened” to report the conductor’s death and a full investigation into what happened is underway. The company is not identifying the conductor at this time out of respect for her family’s privacy.