SF cable car derails injuring four


A cable derailed at Powell and Washington. The runaway car sent passengers flying, and three were taken to the hospital.

It all began at the cable transfer point on Mason just before Washington.

The cable car had disengaged from that cable just before making the turn to Washington. Usually at that point, the downhill momentum carries them one block to Powell Street where they hook on to another.

But on Sunday night, a car didn't have enough momentum and it just stopped at Mason and Washington.

So the conductor and grip man jumped out and pushed it. As the car began moving, they hopped back on in the back.

But the grip man wasn't able to get to the track brake levers in the front because the sliding door wouldn't open.

Muni's Judson True takes it from here.

"The conductor hopped off the car to try and run and get in the front from the street but he tripped and wasn't able to get back on the car. The grip man continued to apply the rear brake but couldn't get to the front to do the stronger track brakes," said True.

Passenger Eric Kay couldn't believe his eyes when he saw the operator pounding at the door.

"He was pounding but could not get through it. I was contemplating jumping off and by the time I was think about it, we were going down the hill so fast that I hung on for dear life," said Kay.

Kay heard the screams of a female passenger. He says it was like a horror flick.

She flew off. A couple of people flew off actually.

True wants to assure the public that this was an isolated incident and that cable cars are safe.

But ABC7's I-Team reported two years ago that mile for mile, cable cars are the most accident prone of any form of public transportation in the country.

Federal Transit Administration data showed that from 2002 to 2005, the collision injury rate for cable cars more than doubled that of Muni buses and three, four even five times the rate of light rail and electric trolley buses in San Francisco.

True responded this way.

"We're taking a look at the statistics on cable cars, but we believe cable cars are a safe system," said True.

The derailment occurred on Washington and Powell, and the key issue on the investigation is why was the back door jammed, and why did it not open.

Another issue, Muni says is policy that at least one train operator is inside the cable car at all times. Muni says apparently that policy was violated.

Three passengers were sent to the hospital, and at least two of those passengers have been released. San Francisco General is still trying to find out the condition of the third patient.

Click here to read an I-Team 2006 blog on cable car accidents..

Copyright © 2023 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.