Video: Passenger fall on light rail at MSP airport spurs calls for more announcements

Video: Passenger fall on light rail at MSP airport spurs calls for more announcements

Video: Passenger fall on light rail at MSP airport spurs calls for more announcements

On a small stretch of the Blue Line, two light rail platforms at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport serve as a first and last stop for travelers from around the country and the world. 

John Lisbeth, 77, was headed home to Florida when he and his family members got on the train at Terminal 2 in July.

But what should have been a short hop to Terminal 1 turned into an ordeal from which Lisbeth is still recovering. 

“Before I could turn around and sit down, the train started,” Lisbeth said. “The acceleration was immediate, and there was no warning at all.”

Video from inside the train, obtained by 5 INVESTIGATES through the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, shows Lisbeth falling backward and hitting his head on the floor.

He briefly lost consciousness as his family and other riders came to his aid.  

“Waking up in a pool of blood with people trying to get me off of the floor?” Lisbeth said. “I’ve been in accidents and been hurt before, but this was right at the top of the list.”

Metro Transit never investigated the incident. Now, both transportation advocates and the agency itself are considering whether more can be done to warn passengers – especially those traveling between terminals at the airport – when trains are about to depart. 

‘It just goes’

An officer with Airport Police was first to respond to 911 calls about Lisbeth’s fall on the train.

Body camera video obtained by 5 INVESTIGATES reveals questions about announcements on the train started as soon as the officer helped Lisbeth onto the platform at Terminal 1. 

“So, no warning at all?” Lisbeth’s grandson asked. 

“No, it just goes,” the officer replied. “It goes fast.”

“There will have to be a new policy then,” the grandson said. “That’s (expletive) ridiculous.”

As a world traveler, Lisbeth says the lack of announcements on the light rail train stood out to him because he has heard them so frequently elsewhere. 

“Even overseas in Europe, they’ll warn you in the native language, and they’ll warn you in English,” Lisbeth said. “But in this case, there was no warning whatsoever.”

The same kind of warnings can be found on a separate tram at MSP, run by the airport and not Metro Transit.

“Please hold on,” a recorded voice announces to passengers. “The tram is departing the station.”

Considering changes

The injuries to Lisbeth’s hand and head were significant enough to send him to the hospital for stitches and a brain scan, causing him to miss his flight. 

A report from Airport Police noted the “sudden movement of the train.”

Officers at the scene also called in Metro Transit Police, who requested video of Lisbeth’s fall for “Risk Management review.”

Metro Transit has a Safety Department tasked with investigating serious injuries to passengers and other major events such as collisions, but the agency tells 5 INVESTIGATES it never looked into what happened to Lisbeth because “the extent of injuries was not reported immediately.”

Metro Transit also declined an interview request but added that it is now “considering adding on-board or on-platform signage and/or announcements” about departing trains.

“This is not an unsolvable problem,” Lisbeth said. “It’s an easy fix.”

The conversation about improved safety is welcomed by Joan Willshire, the former executive director of the Minnesota Council on Disability and a longtime advocate for accessible transportation. 

“To be able to act on this, to hopefully avoid any other incidents in the future, certainly would be of value, I think here,” said Willshire after watching the video of Lisbeth’s fall. “He certainly appeared to be not disabled, so what might happen if it was a person with a disability?”

Moving forward

As Lisbeth continues to recover at home in Florida, he says he is still considering whether to take legal action.

Metro Transit says “passenger falls are not systematically tracked” across the system, but safety remains its “highest priority,” and it continuously works “to identify opportunities where improvements can be made.” 

“If this is happening all the time, if it’s happening once, there’s no excuse for this thing to take off like that,” Lisbeth said. “I want this problem fixed.”