October 21, 2013 in Nation/World

Cause of deadly BART crash still unknown

Lisa Leff And Tracie Cone Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Nucion Avent, left, and Richard Lazzaro, both members of Amalgamated Transit Union 1555, hold candles Sunday to honor the memory of two workers who were killed in a Saturday train accident in Walnut Creek, Calif.
(Full-size photo)

More gridlock

Meanwhile, with no indication that the striking BART workers would be back on the job today, the region was preparing for another day of gridlock on freeways and bridges clogged with commuters who would ordinarily travel by train.

BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said Sunday that transit officials and labor leaders have been in contact over the weekend, but the two sides did not have any plans to return to the bargaining table.

OAKLAND, Calif. – The commuter train that struck and killed two San Francisco Bay Area transit workers didn’t have a front-facing video recorder, but interviews, inspections, audio recordings and camera footage from the train’s cab should provide enough evidence to determine a cause, a federal investigator said Sunday.

Jim Southworth, the National Transportation Safety Board’s railroad accident investigator-in-charge, confirmed that Saturday’s accident involved a Bay Area Rapid Transit train that wasn’t carrying any passengers because of the labor strike that has shut down the system since Friday.

But whether the work stoppage by members of the system’s two largest unions or the way BART management deployed nonstriking workers during the shutdown played a role in the fatalities will not be known for weeks or months, Southworth said.

“My concern coming out here, as it is for every investigation, is to find out what happened, to gather the facts,” he said. “Whether the strike plays a role in that I can’t say at this time.”

BART officials said Sunday that they could no longer discuss the accident because of the ongoing NTSB investigation.

BART’s assistant general manager has said that the four-car train with several employees aboard was returning from a routine maintenance trip and was being run in automatic mode under computer control when it struck the workers who were inspecting a section of track in the East Bay city of Walnut Creek.

Neither BART nor the county coroner has released the names and ages of the victims, one a BART employee and the other a contractor. They were the sixth and seventh workers to die on the job in the system’s 41-year history.

Southworth said it is too early to know how fast the train was going or if workers saw or heard it coming.

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