American Morning

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July 30th, 2009
08:38 AM ET

A child driving NYC Subway Train? Rider says 'It's shocking'

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/30/am.intv.cattie.art.jpg caption="Cattie says he hopes his findings makes the system a little bit safer."]

New Yorkers will tell you they've seen strange things underground on the subway. This past weekend a subway rider saw a child 8 or 9 years old in the train operator’s cab and said it appeared she was teaching the boy how to run the train. He snapped a picture with his cell phone before getting on train.

The subway rider, Jules Cattie, spoke with CNN’s Carol Costello Thursday.

Carol Costello: The story is so unbelievable.

Jules Cattie: Even in New York, it’s shocking.

Costello: You said you snapped the picture because you didn't think anybody would believe you.

Cattie: In New York people say crazy things all the time and you tell friends and people say ‘no, that couldn't happen.’ Well, this actually happened.

Costello: You're sitting on the train. When does this first come to your attention that a child might be in the driver's seat of this subway train?

Cattie: Well I left work, was going home to watch a U.S. soccer game and I heard someone kind of yelling instructions. But it didn't sound like a co-worker to co-worker, like training an MTA employee, it sounded like a mother and a child. The tone was like that.

Costello: So what was she saying to the boy?

Cattie: The words, I heard: ‘green, go, yellow, slow down’ and things like that which I thought that was kind of - the MTA has to have better instructed people if they don't know that green means go.

Costello: And at this time, the train was actually moving?

Cattie: Yes. Yes.

Costello: So was he doing a pretty good job?

Cattie: It’s a rail so I don’t know. It was going and then we eventually - the train stopped at UNION SQUARE and the train was delayed a little bit and all of a sudden the young boy came out, popped the door open and announced why the train was delayed.

Costello: The little boy popped out and said why the train was delayed, the same kid that was driving the train?

Cattie: At this point, I didn't know that. He popped out and made the announcement. Everybody on the train kind of nervously looked around and giggled like ‘did that really just happen?’ And it's kind of shocking and he went back in. At that point I went up to the cab to kind of investigate and see what was going on.

Costello: You went up to the cab to investigate and what did they tell you?

Cattie: I didn't say anything. I looked. The window was kind of fogged out, grayed out. So I leaned up. At that point, I saw the kid. I saw the small individual and larger individual standing at the controls, which kind of shocked me. So I got out my camera because I didn't think it was safe. I didn't know if it was against the rules I didn’t know if it was illegal, but I thought it was kind of shocking. So I put the camera, you know, pressed it up against the window. You can see the pictures in my reflection, held it up. And at that point, somebody in there said, he has a camera and I snapped it.

Costello: All of this was happening; we've had some pretty terrible train crashes lately. In Washington, D.C., being the most recent tragic example, so many people lost their lives. Was that going through your mind as you saw the kid at the controls?

Cattie: That’s why I brought it to the press' attention. I talked to the MTA and inspector general’s office after it happened. I provided the photo and told them what happened. We're incumbent, we're American citizens, to keep an eye out for each other. Don't assume because you're on public transport everything is being run properly. If you see something, say something, take a picture and make somebody aware of it and hopefully something gets done.

Costello: We have an MTA statement. ‘Under New York City transit rules. the presence of an unauthorized person in the cab of a subway train is expressly forbidden and viewed as a serious infraction. Depending on the outcome of [the] investigation, disciplinary charges may be filed against these employees.’ So you have evidence in the picture. Most assuredly something will happen. An investigation is under way and that’s got to make you feel a little better.

Cattie: I didn't want this young man to get in any trouble. I don't want the conductor or the driver to lose their jobs over this. I just think it's a, like President Obama said, these are teachable moments and that hopefully something good comes out of it. You know, I didn't want something to happen in a couple of weeks, a train being in an accident and people get injured or killed, and to think, God, I didn't do anything and hopefully this makes the system a little bit safer.

Photo snapped of child in the driver's cab. Courtesy: Jules Cattie
Photo snapped of child in the driver's cab. Courtesy: Jules Cattie
Cattie snapped the riders in the subway car he was in. Courtesy: Jules Cattie
Cattie snapped the riders in the subway car he was in. Courtesy: Jules Cattie
The train number. Courtesy: Jules Cattie
The train number. Courtesy: Jules Cattie

Filed under: You Have to See This
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Matthew Howard

    I agree with Alan Wilzig. I am 14 and my grandfather works for MTA subway divisions supervising some train repairs. He takes me to see the trains all the time and it is perfectly safe because its in the train yard. His boss let me drive the train into repairs under supervision and that was fine. I dont think that the conductor should get fired because the economy is harsh right now but she should have a desk job for a while.

    November 8, 2009 at 12:06 pm |
  2. Alan Wilzig

    Mr Dery , have you lost your mind ? I ride and race vehicles every day, i hate activist nanny-weenies that make a big deal out of "fun". Don't you remember the recent HORRIBLE crash in LA because the train conductor was simply responding to an SMS text with some kids who are train buffs ? People think these subway trains are idiot proof and "practically run themselves". It's simply not so. The woman should be fired for him even BEING IN the control room of the train while it is moving , let alone full of passengers. An MTA employee could bring their child to a maintenance yard any day off they have and let their kid crawl ALL OVER the controls and "play engineer" . This was ridiculously negligent. I don't like to see people fired wither unless they steal or commit a real crime. But this woman needs to spend the next year in an MTA clerical DESK JOB until she figures out precisely the responsability that comes with being a conductor.

    July 31, 2009 at 1:26 am |
  3. Lou Adams--Ky

    I may be wrong, but sounds to me like a parent took a child to work with them and was showing and explaining their job to the child. I can't imagine anyone doing something so careless and reckless as allowing a child to drive a train! I am going to assum that because of all the stories in the news lately that this person saw something entirely innocent, a parent showing a child what their job consisted of, and misunderstood what he was seeing.

    But with all the accidents lately because of people doing stupid things, you really can't blame people for over reacting.

    July 31, 2009 at 12:59 am |
  4. Cass

    The only thing that suprises me is how some people will trivialize a serious situation. This child should not have been allowed to drive the train with Mommy or maybe we should allow surgeons to bring their children to the O.R. to see how Mommy or Daddy operate on patients. It wouldn't have been so cute had he caused an accident. Shame on some people for hiding their heads in the sand.

    July 30, 2009 at 4:36 pm |
  5. Julia

    This man is lying. You cannot see the train operator through the glass panel in the door. You can only look straight ahead. It's impossible that he saw the boy operating the train through that window.

    July 30, 2009 at 4:28 pm |
  6. Kenric

    THIS WOULD BE A REAL STORY IF THE KID WAS DRIVING OR HIJACKED THE TRAIN AT GUNPOINT. MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME HOW TO DRIVE A CAR AT 14. MY DAD TAUGHT ME HOW TO DRIVE CONSTRUCTION EQUIPMENT BY 10 OR 12. EACH ONE TEACH ONE!

    July 30, 2009 at 3:10 pm |
  7. Dave

    Good story. I'm glad this practice was discovered before someone got hurt. MTA drivers wont be letting their kids drive the trains anymore. I'm sure if there was an accident you same people claiming this "sensationalizing" a non-story would be asking why nobody said anything.

    July 30, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  8. William Dery

    Today I just could not contain my self. You people just sensationalize a story for the shock value. I am tired of listening to this type of hype. I don’t know what happened but I’ll bet that the conductress simply brought her son to work and was showing him how she ran the train. I seriously doubt that he was running the train. This alarmist you had on is so typical of today’s generation. The chicken little’s who are to quick to pass judgment. I would not have aired any of this until you talked to the conductor and got all of the facts. If indeed it was mom showing her son what goes on at work-good for her. We need more of that type of learning. Shame on CNN for sensationalizing a simple story.

    July 30, 2009 at 11:42 am |
  9. Larry

    Nothing surprises me anymore.

    July 30, 2009 at 10:56 am |
  10. Greg

    Were you guys having trouble filling your time slot this AM? This story could have been covered in about 30 seconds.

    July 30, 2009 at 10:47 am |