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December 17, 2014

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NTSB: Train operator asleep before Chicago crash

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NBC Chicago, Kenneth Webster / AP

A Chicago Transit Authority train car rests on an escalator at the O’Hare Airport station after it derailed early Monday, March 24, 2014, in Chicago. More than 30 people were injured after the train “climbed over the last stop, jumped up on the sidewalk and then went up the stairs and escalator,” according to Chicago Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago.

CHICAGO — The operator of a Chicago commuter train that crashed at O'Hare International Airport admitted she "dozed off" before the accident, waking only when the train jumped off the tracks and climbed an escalator, a federal official said Wednesday.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Ted Turpin said the woman had been working as an operator for about two months and acknowledged she'd previously fallen asleep on the job in February, when her train partially missed a station.

"She did admit that she dozed off prior to entering the station," he said during a briefing Wednesday. "She did not awake until the train hit."

He said the woman, who was cooperating with the investigation, often worked an erratic schedule, filling in for other Chicago Transit Authority employees.

"Her hours would vary every day," he said.

Turpin said the NTSB is investigating the woman's training, scheduling and disciplinary history.

"The CTA became aware of that (February incident) almost immediately and a supervisor admonished her and had a discussion with her," he said.

More than 30 people were hurt during the crash, which occurred around 3 a.m., but none of the injuries were serious.

Turpin said the crash caused about $6 million worth of damage.

Meanwhile Wednesday, crews were cutting apart the lead car of the eight-car train that was damaged during the crash, sending sparks into the air at typically busy station that remains closed.

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