At fault, Metrolink fires its messenger.

Public Affairs Consultant specializing in Issue Advocacy and Strategic Communications

Within 48 hours of the fatal Metrolink crash Friday afternoon in Chatsworth, the transit agency’s board of directors dumped its top spokesperson, Denise Tyrrel, over a dispute on how information was shared with the media.

That’s a shame because I found her candor and visibly emotional distress over the tragedy refreshingly human while she quickly provided information that was painfully obvious—a Metrolink engineer screwed up.

Like many other Angelenos, I spent several hours over the weekend looking for news updates on the Metrolink crash in Chatsworth. Unlike other fatal accidents that occur in Los Angeles regularly, this crash seemed different to me, and with Denise Tyrrel, I felt the pain she was experiencing and a sense of guilt that a colleague at her agency had not done his job. Her honesty and human emotions moved me and I am sure thousands of other Angelinos whose hearts went out to the victims’ families.

She was visibly moved by the tragic loss of life as well as the acts of heroism of public safety personnel and average citizens who happened to have been on the train or in the immediate vicinity of the crash. Most spokespeople in these situations have memorized all the legal gobblygook from their safe word manuals, but Ms. Tyrrel spoke with emotions that represented the Metrolink passengers, not the bureaucrats. After our recent experiences with FEMA, it was refreshing to hear from a government official with a heart!

Ms. Tyrrel’s candid admission on Saturday that Metrolink’s engineer apparently “ignored” the red lights may have been professionally inappropriate, but from the perspectives of human beings with emotions, she did the right thing.

It’s too bad that we have grown into a society where expressions of emotions and accepting responsibility cost people their jobs due to our litigious nature. Had someone in my family been killed on the train, I would have preferred Ms. Tyrrel’s honest approach than the usual bureaucratic excuses and having to “wait for the investigation to be completed.”

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