The MBTA trolley operator who was at the controls during a major crash in 2021 was acquitted of gross negligence charge on Wednesday.
Owen Turner was accused of causing the Green Line trolley crashon Commonwealth Avenue back in July 2021. , is being charged with negligence. The crash, which happened during the busy 6 p.m. hour, left 27 people hurt, including four MBTA employees.
The jury out of Brighton District Court found Turner not guilty. Turner's attorney Matthew Peterson had argued that it was simply an accident.
“I always said I was innocent and I’m glad they found me innocent," Turner told reporters outside court on Wednesday.
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Investigators said the 51-year-old had a lengthy history of violations at the MBTA. On the day of the crash, investigators have alleged that Turner was going three times the speed limit on the B Line tracks, when he slammed into the trolley in front of him. However, some of that history was not included in the court case due to evidentiary rules.
The crash was one of several dangerous incidents that prompted a federal review of the MBTA's light rail and subway system, as well as orders by the Federal Transit Administration to fix the problems.
The National Transportation Safety Board in its report on the crash released last month said Turner told investigators that he blacked out and may have fallen asleep, leading to a “loss of situational awareness” just before the trolley accelerated at full power to 33 mph (53 kph), well above the speed limit.
The trolley that was struck was traveling about 10 mph (17 kph) at the time of impact.
Testing determined that Turner was not impaired by alcohol or drugs, investigators said, and there were no mechanical problems with his trolley.
The MBTA fired Turner. He said Tuesday he was not looking to get his job back, but that he enjoyed his time at the T.
"A lot of people hate the T. We know this. … we still move forward. We do the best we can. We’re there out in the winter with the snow and the rain and we do our best," he said.
The MBTA in a statement thanked jurors and investigators and said it plans to install a system on the Green Line that “uses safety monitoring equipment like radar, signals, and cameras to transmit data to the train as it moves along the tracks" that will prevent collisions.
The trial was quick, having started Tuesday and ending after short jury deliberations.