News


NTSB to investigate BART workers' deaths on tracks

BART employee, contractor hit by train Saturday

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the deaths of two BART workers Saturday in a collision on the tracks.

The workers, one BART employee and one contractor whose names have not yet been released, were killed shortly before 2 p.m. Saturday while conducting track maintenance a mile north of the Walnut Creek station.

The deaths occurred in the second full day of a strike by two of BART's unions, the Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555.

BART officials said the two deceased employees, one a BART employee and the other a contractor, were inspecting the tracks in response to a report of a dip on the tracks. Both employees were highly experienced, both in transit rail and in freight rail, BART officials said.

"They understand the railroad, they understand how to work around moving trains," Paul Oversier, BART's assistant general manager, said of the two employees. "They were doing today what they have probably done 100 if not 1,000 other times in their career."

Some doubt remains about who was at the controls of the train.

Oversier said there were six employees on the train at the time of the collision, which occurred about one mile north of the Walnut Creek station.

BART officials previous issued a statement saying that an experienced operator was at the controls of the train but that it was operating under computer control.

However, Oversier said that only BART police officers had spoken to those employees and he would not "engage in speculation" about who was operating the train, who was in the cab and who was in the passenger compartment until officials learned the results of the police investigation.

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 Saturday's incident was a manager.

Patricia Schuchardt, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said today that the training for train operators takes around 16 weeks.

BART General Manager Grace Crunican today said this was "a tragic day in BART's history."

"The entire BART family is grieving," Crunican said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of our deceased co-workers."

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 called off picketing Sunday "out of respect for the families involved."

ATU 1555 and SEIU 1021 officials issued a joint statement saying that they were unaware of the details of what had happened.

"We express our deepest sympathies for the families of the individuals who died in this tragic accident," the statement said.

The deaths cast a pall over any efforts to renew stalled contract talks. Both sides today refused to discuss negotiations or the strike, however, saying their focus for now is on the workers.

Antonette Bryant, president of ATU Local 1555, said "We're not here to talk about work."

"Two men are dead, this is an extremely tragic situation," Bryant said. "I think we need to keep our eyes focused."

Oversier said labor issues and negotiations "are not at the forefront of our minds."

"We just lost two people in the BART family and that's what our focus is on, getting through this."

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cynthia
a resident of Dublin
on Oct 20, 2013 at 10:44 am

Grace Crunican needs to resign. Her inadequate management skills have left the Bay Area in turmoil. Not only is she unable to negotiate with unions to settle a contract, she put innocent BART workers in jeopardy by asking inexperienced managers to operate trains, thus costing two members of the BART family their lives. For this she in paid in excess of 300K per year.
Grace needs to suppress her over inflated ego, tell the truth, and accept responsibility. Those 6 managers on that train were training as TO's so that BART management could operate without trained union employees with NO REGARD FOR SAFETY. Grace not only put BART management workers at risk, but eventually the entire population of BART commuters. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those two employees that were victims to the reckless decisions made by Grace Crunican.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Oct 20, 2013 at 11:57 am

I AGREE THAT GRACE CRUNICAN MUST RESIGN IMMEDIATELY.

I also urge the BART Board of Directors to Resign.

Two hard working humans beings were killed while trying to make BART transit safer for all passengers. They cannot be replaced.

My heart goes out to their families, friends, and fellow union employees. I urge them to continue their struggle for justice in the workplace.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dominic
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2013 at 1:53 pm

(Post removed by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff for containing unverified or personal information.)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2013 at 2:37 pm

I wish all of BART's issues could be blamed on one person. The death of the two workers was tragic, but it can't be directly attributed to the general manager, the operations manager in charge that day, the unions, the strike, or anything else. A surprising number of railroad workers doing track work are killed by trains every year. These are professional people working in and around railroads each day, and still they get struck and killed or injured. I have never worked on a railroad, so it seems impossible to me that someone on the tracks would not hear an approaching train, and yet it happens. Don't take my word for it, go to the NTSB website at ntsb.gov and look for yourself.

In BART's case, from what I've read, track workers operate in pairs. One works and the other keeps watch for trains. Yet, they were both struck and killed yesterday. And this was not the first time. A worker was killed in 2008, not too far from Saturday's accident, and in 2009 a worker was injured while working on the new West Dublin station. Also in 2009, two trains ran into each other in the tunnel below Oakland. None of those accidents happened while a strike was going on.

BART has an enviable safety record, even with yesterday's accident.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by chk
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2013 at 3:12 pm

I agree that this is tragic. It was surprising that one of the two was not doing the spotting job. One of those was a union worker who was trained for this. If somebody feels that this accident was the cause of management because of the strike then it would be fair to say that all other accidents that have occurred were the fault of the union workers when they were on the job. Neither case can be made, IMHO.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Oct 20, 2013 at 3:24 pm

All of the facts have not been made public. To avoid any further speculation, please stop pretending that you have insider information of what actually happened.

When the report by NTSB is completed and made public, we will have a better idea of what actually happened. Hopefully, the report will be clear.

Just like Obama is blamed for everything that happens in the galaxy, I politely request that Crunican please step aside and/or step down.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Oct 20, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Joe...What comments do you have for the parents, wives, children and extended families of the 2 killed BART workers?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Oct 20, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Incidentally, I am NOT A DEMOCRAT and I did not vote for President Obama. For the record, I do not vote Republican, Libertarian, or any known members of the Tea Party.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Right
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Cholo, for once I agree with you. Both Grace and Oblamo should resign. Grace should not have to step down until the messiah is sent packing back to the shooting gallery that is downtown Chicago, his town.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dominic
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2013 at 4:39 pm

(Post removed by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff for containing unverified or personal information.)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Oct 20, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Typical union language, "scab." How is a computer a scab, seeing as what has been stated in the train was on auto?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by chk
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2013 at 6:42 pm

I believe you Cholo that you are not a member of any of those parties. You have to be a US citizen to vote. How can you tell us to not make judgement yet and at the same time you are saying the gm and board should resign? That sounds like you are making judgement which I guess you feel is ok as long as the judgement supports your viewpoints. As you say, BUSTED.

BTW, the bay area papers already reported that it was a union worker that was hit.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dominic
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Kathleen believes what she wants to believe, despite lack of evidence and a glaring unwillingness of the management scabs to come clean on who was involved and in what capacity. Right ... it must have been the computer's fault. Could've happened to anyone! Fortunately the management scabs were on duty because if union workers had been involved there's no telling how many deaths there might have been.

And chk says, hey, one of the workers who died was unionized. So that must really change matters. Maybe we can place blame on the victims rather than the scabs who were running the train.

Anyone outside of the Tea Party prepared to accept such drivel? Didn't think so.

C'mon, I'm just waiting for Kathleen or some other clown to start arguing that the feds coming in to investigate is yet another example of federal government overreach.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Oct 20, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

NTSB had to step in; otherwise, no one would believe an impartial investigation was done. As on the other thread, the rest of your comments are drivel.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2013 at 10:34 pm

According to the NTSB, 132 track workers have been killed by trains in the past 20 years.

Many of you are missing the point. Train accidents happen, no matter who is at the controls, no matter what kinds of computer supervision or fail-safe systems are in place, no matter who the worker's boss's boss's boss is.

The rail industry needs to learn from this accident, and take steps to prevent its recurrence. This is the message I'd give to the families.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmmmm
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2013 at 11:30 pm

Unions are not getting their way with Board, so need to get rid of Grace and get one of their own in charge. I'd say the accidents are a bit suspicious... sort of like Chicago union tactics in the days of old.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Daveg
a resident of Birdland
on Oct 20, 2013 at 11:38 pm

Daveg is a registered user.

Comments like "Hmmmmmm's" are totally uncalled for. To insinuate that the deaths of these two workers are potentially deliberate by anybody is the height of callousness.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dominic
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2013 at 4:55 am

(Post removed by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff for containing unverified or personal information.)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Oct 21, 2013 at 6:29 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Just wondering if the union leaders will take responsibility for all the traffic accidents that are likely to occur as a result of commuters forced back into their cars because of the strike or for lost wages of the Bay Area.


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