Miami-Dade County

‘Human error’ caused last week’s Metrorail derailment, says Miami-Dade transit

This photo from a Metrorail passenger shows the evacuation from a derailed train on Friday, July 12, 2019. County firefighters led passengers on a walkway off the tracks to the Earlington Heights station.
This photo from a Metrorail passenger shows the evacuation from a derailed train on Friday, July 12, 2019. County firefighters led passengers on a walkway off the tracks to the Earlington Heights station.

Bad judgment — not a malfunction — probably caused a Metrorail train to leave the tracks Friday evening, with transit administrators saying they’ve eliminated mechanical failings and infrastructure problems as culprits in the jarring rush-hour incident.

Miami-Dade’s Transportation Department said in a Twitter post Monday evening that after a preliminary investigation of the incident, “it appears to be the result of human error.”

The agency formed a committee Monday morning to evaluate the July 12 incident. Information was scarce after the partial derailment of the rush-hour train leaving Miami International Airport, which resulted in no injuries.

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A passenger photo shows the aftermath of a Metrorail train’s partial derailment Friday evening near Miami International Airport. Courtesy Luba Parada

“What we have found is there were no technical issues that were concerns,” Transportation director Alice Bravo told county commissioners. “We’ve eliminated those items from consideration as we continue forward with our investigation.”

Human error may not involve the operator of the train. County employees operate switches that allow trains to move between tracks, as well as signals telling operators when trains need to halt. Jeffery Mitchell, president of the county’s transit union, also linked Friday’s derailment to human error, both on the train and at Metrorail headquarters. “It was operator and Central Control error,” he said.

Bravo said the derailment happened at a low speed, minimizing the damage when the train left the tracks. She said the problem came when the train attempted to move in reverse after coming to a stop at 6:28 p.m. Passengers reported smoke from the train after the derailment, and they had to be evacuated by ladder onto an emergency walkway. A crane removed the train from the tracks and Miami-Dade was able to resume Metrorail service to MIA shortly before 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Miami-Dade is replacing its 1980s Metrorail fleet with new cars, and the derailment involved one of the original trains.

The partial derailment followed reports of safety concerns at Metrorail over deteriorating acoustic barriers, a report citing a shortage of fully trained mechanics, and union claims of safety issues with new county buses.

“This is very concerning,” said Daniella Levine Cava, a county commissioner running for mayor in 2020. “It does make me wonder about the integrity of the system.”

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