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Motorman’s ban upheld after he broke safety rules for ill trainee

Published: May 27, 2015

Publication: NY Post

By Rebecca Harshbarger

The motorman who was suspended for breaking the rules to rescue a student lost a disciplinary hearing fighting his suspension, the Post has learned.

Quincy Calhoun was teaching a student in his cab when the trainee, who was having chest pains, fainted and began spitting up blood as they traveled to the last stop on the Bronx line.

The ill trainee went through a red signal, which threw the brakes into emergency.

“All I know is when you grab your chest and slump to the floor, it isn’t a good sign,” Calhoun had told the Post. “All I was thinking about was getting this guy medical help.”

Calhoun went onto the tracks and used a device called a stop arm to disable the signal. He then split a switch to move the train forward to the Dyre Avenue stop in the Bronx.

Medics then rushed the student for treatment at Jacobi Hospital.

Even though Calhoun made the move to rescue the trainee, the MTA charged Calhoun with reckless operation of a train and improper performance — based in part on previous disciplinary infractions, sources said. Calhoun was also suspended without pay until a final determination is made on the charges.

“The train operator did not follow proper safety protocols by failing to contact the rail control center and obtain permission for this maneuver,” said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz.

“The actions of this train operator could have actually caused a derailment and jeopardized the safety of others.”

The union appealed the suspension and argued that Calhoun should not be punished for rescuing a fellow worker.

The arbitrator ruled in the MTA’s favor, saying there is a reasonable basis that Calhoun may be guilty of the two disciplinary charges. The ruling also said that only the MTA has the authority to move Calhoun to a position that isn’t safety-sensitive, such as administrative work.

Union counsel Arthur Schwartz criticized the decision.

“Under the union contract, the immediate suspension of an employee should only occur where that employees poses a threat to the transit system, like a thief or someone driving while under the influence,” he said.

“Quincy Calhoun’s actions were a unique occurrence; hopefully he will never again be faced with having to choose between breaking the rules and having to save someone’s life. And, ultimately, the choice he made was the right one.”

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