Two BART workers fatally struck by maintenance train

Two BART employees were fatally struck by a maintenance train between the Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill stations on Saturday.
October 19, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Two BART maintenance workers are dead after being hit by a train. Authorities are telling us the deaths had nothing to do with the BART strike and that workers were performing normal maintenance when they were hit.

We have learned that one of the employees killed was a union member and the other was a contractor.

AFSCME 3993 President Patricia Schuchardt released a statement saying, "We are saddened to learn that two BART employees were killed today after being hit by a BART train. One of the employees was a member of AFSCME Local 3993. Our hearts go out to the family of both workers as well as to the person operating the train. This is a tragedy."

Schuchardt tells ABC7 News that the union member who was killed chose to cross the picket line. Though the union has recommended that its members not cross, she says it's ultimately up to them.

The two were hit near North Main and Jones. According to BART, the accident happened just before 2 p.m. as the train was on a routine maintenance operated by non-union staff members.

BART officials said an "experienced operator" was at the controls, but did not specify who it was. The train was being run in automatic mode under computer control at the time of the accident, the statement said.

Union representatives have warned of the danger that could come with allowing managers to operate trains.

The two dead were one BART employee and one contractor who were performing track inspections 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.

General Manager Grace Crunican arrived at the scene and was briefed on the situation. She issued a statement Saturday night saying, "This is a tragic day in BART's history. The entire BART family is grieving. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of our deceased co-workers."

Officials on the scene have not identified the names, ages, or genders of the workers. But they did confirm that both were hit by an eastbound train and that they were servicing a section of the tracks that needed repair.

When we arrived on the location we could see BART police securing the scene and getting information from witnesses. We asked if the train was in operation as part of a regularly scheduled maintenance or some type of training. BART police were not ready to confirm who was operating the train and why.

"I do know that we run them to keep the rails clear and that we also run them to transport personnel to certain locations that we need have personnel stationed at," BART police Dept. Chief Ben Fairow said.

Officials confirm that whenever there's an accident involving one of the trains, there's a set of procedures that they go through. It's initially treated as a criminal investigation -- the scene is secured, pictures are taken, and the train operator is tested for drugs and alcohol.

We've learned that both employees killed had extensive experience with BART as workers.

We've also learned that the unions, out of respect, will not picket on Sunday. The strike will continue, but they will not be actively picketing at the various BART stations.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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