OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — A commuter train that is part of a San Francisco Bay Area system whose employees are on strike hit and killed two maintenance workers Saturday afternoon, officials said.
The accident that killed one system employee and one contractor in the East Bay city of Walnut Creek occurred shortly before 2 p.m. as the train was on a routine maintenance run operated by a manager, Bay Area Rapid Transit officials said.
“This is a tragic day in BART’s history,” the system’s general manager, Grace Crunican, said in a statement. “The entire BART family is grieving.”
BART officials said in a statement that the manager was an “experienced operator” and the four-car train was being run in automatic mode under computer control at the time of the accident.
Officials from the two unions representing BART workers, who have been on strike since Thursday, have warned of the danger that could come with allowing managers to operate trains.
At least one of the unions, Amalgamated Transit Union 1555 announced that its 900 workers would not be picketing on Sunday out of respect for the victims and their families.
Also Saturday, ATU local president Antonette Bryant said she was taking a final contract offer from BART before members for a vote, but expects it will be rejected.
“It’s our hope we can get it to members this week,” Bryant told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. She said she expects the vote to be “a resounding no.”
The two workers killed were performing track inspections about a mile from the Walnut Creek station in an area some 25 miles northeast of San Francisco in response to a reported dip in the track, BART said.
“Both people had extensive experience working around moving trains in both the freight train and the rapid transit industry,” BART said.
The procedures for such maintenance require one employee to inspect the track and the other to serve as a lookout for oncoming traffic, BART officials said, but they did not immediately say whether that procedure was being followed.
Police placed yellow tarps over the two dead who were about 150 yards apart on the tracks.
The victim’s names and ages were not immediately released.
The manager was shuttling the train cars between yards to have graffiti cleaned off them, BART Assistant General Manager Paul Oversier told the Contra Costa Times.