Caltrain service resumes after accident

October 30, 2008 11:40:13 AM PDT
Caltrain is rolling again on the Peninsula after a fatal accident that shut down service for more than three hours on Thursday morning.

It happened in the peak of commute time and it frustrated passengers. Those ABC7 News spoke with just wanted to know alternatives to get where they were going.

When ABC7 News asked Caltrain if it reacted slowly, transit officials said no. They said they did the best they could to add more buses, clear the tracks and get trains moving in both directions, which they did again by 9:00 a.m.

The driver of a mangled white pickup truck had little chance for survival when he was struck by a Caltrain in San Mateo.

The accident happened around 5:30 on Thursday morning between the San Mateo and Hayward Park stations.

Investigators say the train engineer saw the truck stopped on the northbound tracks of the 9th Avenue crossing, but couldn't slow in time.

"It's a huge locomotive and they're going about 50 to 60 miles an hour, and it takes them a little awhile to stop, about a mile to a mile and half for them to stop, to fully stop," said Detective Victor Lopez from San Mateo County Sheriff's Office Transit Police Bureau.

The train dragged the truck several hundred yards, killing the driver, a man in his fifties. Why he was stopped on the tracks is still unknown.

"We're not sure if he was stopped on the grade crossing, or trying to go around the crossing arms. The arms were down, according to the engineers," said Det. Lopez.

The collision halted Caltrain travel in both directions during the investigation, and while crews cleaned the tracks, which sent commuters scrambling for alternatives.

"Just like we're in the peak period, the buses are in the peak period too, so we're all stressed for resources at this point," said Caltrain Deputy Director of Transportation Michelle Bouchard.

Caltrain was able to add six more SamTrans buses to help commuters travel between its Hayward Park and San Mateo stations. The rides were free for those with Caltrain tickets.

Other passengers just arriving to catch a train were unsure what to do.

"I don't know. Just wait and see," said Caltrain passenger John Bailey.

But once announcements started over the PA system and electronic message boards flashed updates, passengers figured out Caltrain was working to resume service. Others found out directly from us.

"Thanks for the info, otherwise we'd be waiting here for no other reason," said Caltrain passenger Sachin Bardewa.

Even after the trains started in both directions and with service there were some residual delays. The San Mateo County Coroner will be the one to identify the victim after next of kin are notified.


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