Questions suround transit driver's death

March 16, 2010 5:01:43 PM PDT
Friends and co-workers are upset over last week's death of a METRO Lift driver. Now the circumstances of her death are in dispute. A friend says Deborah Brooks tried to go home sick from work the day she died. Her employer, First Transit, and METRO are also telling their version of events.

A mother of two daughters, Deborah Brooks had been with her company for nine years, but it's what co-workers say happened that final day that has left many questioning if she'd be alive today.

It was a death that left a trail of sadness, and for the daughter of Deborah Brooks, there is still a litany of questions.

"Maybe my momma would be here if they let her go," said Octavia Price, daughter of Deborah Brooks.

It was last Wednesday when Brooks came to work her usual morning shift her at First Transit. Despite appearing shaky to some of her coworkers, she got in her van, and went on her route. However, sometime during the day, co-workers claim Brooks took ill, eventually radioing dispatch and asking to leave. Listening, they claim, as the dispatcher told her to stay put.

"They said they didn't have nobody on standby to take over her route," said Consuelo Garza, a bus drivers' union representative.

Co-workers claim another 30 minutes would pass when Brooks would once again radio dispatch, this time complaining of chest pains. A driver eventually went to check on her, but found Brooks collapsed in her van. 911 was called, but she would later die.

"I think everybody let her down," said Garza.

METRO, which dispatches First Transit as part of its METRO Lift program, says it is investigating the incident.

"The preliminary finding is that we do not show the operator called," said Arturo Jackson of METRO director of transportation programs.

They say dispatchers are in constant communication with supervisors and if a serious problem is identified they are trained to get drivers help.

"At this point, we've been unable to identify anyone at fault," said Jackson.

It is a slightly different story from what First Transit told us, saying in part, "The driver did remark that she was feeling out of sorts, but there was no indication that it was anything serious. We would never require or allow a driver to operate a bus if he or she was not fully capable of doing so."

Another XR2010MAR14seg3.flv driver tends to agree.

"If you stress to them I need to get off, as far as I know they do it," said bus driver Wilbur Walker.

But Garza is convinced more could have been done. Anything to help a friend who she believes was just looking to be heard.

"She was calling out for help and nobody listened to her," said Garza.

We did request recordings and transcripts of the radio transmissions the day she died, but METRO says they are not recorded. The agency is currently reviewing the dispatcher's notes as part of its investigation.

As for Brooks' family, they are holding a wake for her Tuesday evening. She will be buried in Newton Texas, on Wednesday.

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