A series of mistakes by a streetcar driver likely led to a Saturday morning accident in which the streetcar rolled out of control roughly a half-mile down Elizabeth Avenue before slamming into an SUV, city officials said Tuesday.
In its first account of the accident, the city said the problem began around 10:30 a.m. when Streetcar 91 arrived at the Hawthorne station, across from Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center – the last stop on the line.
The streetcars have controls at both ends, and the driver, Metro Coston Jr., walked from the front of the car to the back so it could travel in the opposite direction.
But the city said he failed to perform a critical function: Turn a dial that would activate controls at the back of the car instead of the front.
The driver then attempted to insert a key that would allow him to drive the streetcar. As he tried to do this, he somehow released the brake, Charlotte Area Transit System interim Chief Executive John Muth said.
Then gravity took over.
The 48,000-pound streetcar began gently rolling down Hawthorne Lane. The driver began pressing a large red button on his control panel that controls an electromagnetic emergency brake.