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NTSB Investigating BART Worker Deaths

Alex Gronke/Patch Staff: The scene of a fatal collision involving a BART train in Walnut Creek on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013.
Alex Gronke/Patch Staff: The scene of a fatal collision involving a BART train in Walnut Creek on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013.
The National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation into the deaths of two BART workers who were struck by a train during maintenance work on Saturday.

NTSB investigator Jim Southworth said the agency will be in the Bay Area for the next four to 10 days collecting information on what happened during the collision, which occurred shortly before 2 p.m. on a northbound track around one mile north of Walnut Creek. The agency has walked the area of the collision and requested relevant documents, images and data from BART, and will interview those involved and inspect all involved equipment, Southworth said.

It could be six months to a year or longer before a final report is issued, however, Southworth said. That report could include recommendations for changes to prevent similar accidents in the future. The four-car train involved in the collision was a "non-revenue" train, meaning that there were no passengers on board. Southworth said investigators would determine, among other things, who was driving the train, how fast it was going and why it was on the tracks at the time. The train was not equipped with a forward-facing video camera that would show the tracks, but did have a video camera inside the cab that could help show who was there when the collision occurred, he said. The two men who were killed -- a BART employee and a contractor -- were inspecting a reported dip in the tracks on the Pittsburg-Bay Point line, when they were struck by an out-of-service train that was being moved to Concord, BART assistant general manager Paul Oversier said Saturday.

The two victims, whose names had not been released as of Sunday morning, were declared dead at the scene. Oversier said the two men were highly experienced track workers. Some question remains about who was at the controls of the train. BART officials initially issued a statement on Saturday saying that an experienced operator was at the controls of the train but that it was operating under computer control. However, Oversier later partially retreated from that statement, saying he did not know who was at the controls of the train. BART trains are not carrying passengers during the strike, but BART officials have said some managers have been trained to operate the trains for maintenance purposes in the event of a strike. They have not yet said, however, whether the train's operator in today's incident was a manager.

None of those on board the train at the time of the collision were injured. The deaths occurred in the second day of a strike involving BART's two largest unions, the Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555. Southworth said he was aware of the strike and the investigation would consider whether it played a role in the collision. No new contract talks occurred today in the wake of the deaths, but BART officials have said they will hold an emergency board meeting Monday to discuss labor negotiations. A spokeswoman said today that the agency is open to reopening talks. Union officials will hold two candlelight vigils this evening for the victims. One was scheduled to take place at the Walnut Creek BART Station, and a second at Lake Merritt Plaza in Oakland. Both were scheduled to start at 6 p.m.

Copyright © 2013 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.
Craig Kauffman October 22, 2013 at 02:55 AM
I understand from a BART employee that the operator at the controls was a supervisor who had not actually operated a BART train for 15 years! Really sad! ---

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