The MBTA is refusing to release records that could shed light on what caused a commuter rail coach car to suddenly break away from a moving train three weeks ago, an incident that prompted a federal and agency probe.
The T denied a Herald request for emails and other written communications between several top T officials, claiming that releasing the records could jeopardize a still-ongoing investigation before a “full analysis is complete.”
The emails “are being used for the express purpose of discussing and deliberating the incident on September 6th and the MBTA’s response to same,” Julie A. Ciollo, the MBTA’s assistant general counsel, wrote in a letter to the Herald, which sought emails sent to and from then-general manager Steve Poftak, deputy GM Jeff Gonneville and chief railroad officer Ryan Coholan.
“The incident … is currently under investigation by the MBTA,” Ciollo added.
“The disclosure of any records that are pertinent to the investigation — particularly communications about the incident between the individuals specified — would compromise the investigation by prematurely releasing details as to the nature and possible causes … .”
Tory Mazzola, a Keolis spokesman, said he had no developments to report and called releasing any details on the probe “premature.”
The MBTA’s private rail operator has said a broken coupler, which connects the trains, was at least partly to blame after a car abruptly broke free from a moving Newburyport line train Sept. 6.
Officials later put the train back into service with an “updated model” of the mechanism, and Keolis said mechanics have since been putting all coach cars through “more rigorous daily inspection,” including physically checking couplers to ensure they’re properly connected.
The train, which had four coach cars in total, “probably” had about 400 riders on it at the time, a spokesman said. Both the train and the loose car immediately stopped, thanks to safety systems on board.
No one was injured in what Keolis officials called an “exceptionally unusual incident.” Federal Railroad Administration officials are also part of the investigation.