BART officials focus on human error as possible cause in train derailment, fire that injured 9

ByLena Howland, Leslie Brinkley KGO logo
Wednesday, January 3, 2024
'Human error' possible cause of BART derailment in East Bay: officials
BART Director Deborah Allen says they don't believe there was a track issue at the time of the derailment and are now focusing on human error as being a cause.

ORINDA, Calif. (KGO) -- Bart trains got out of the gate on time after a night when an immense crane lifted derailed cars and moved them to the Concord yard and crews repaired track damage.

It was a difficult start to the new year for BART after an eastbound train caught fire and derailed near Orinda at 9 a.m. Monday, traumatizing over 100 riders and delaying thousands of other passengers.

"Now we turn to the phase of what really happened," said BART Director Deborah Allen.

PREVIOUS STORY: 9 hospitalized after BART train derails and catches fire in East Bay, officials say

Allen said the transit agency is still interviewing operations staff as they try to put together the pieces.

"There is an investigation pending so lots of things could come out of that. We don't know right now. But what we believe right now is it's not a track issue, it was not a train issue. So those have sort of been ruled out. What we are left with and what most of what we know points to is human error," said Allen.

She said the interlocking device was new, the train car was new, and the track was new. BART said they were unable to operate the interlocking to change tracks remotely and asked the train operator to do it manually. Passengers described the train stopping and moving backward.

"The fiber optic network went down due to some software issues, and that's what created the conditions from the start that the train operator had to manually realign these tracks," said Allen.

It's the fourth BART derailment in the last 15 years, all in the East Bay. The incident is a setback for BART as the agency needs to build ridership in 2024 to secure funding after declines due to safety issues and the pandemic.

MORE: Amtrak train derails after hitting tree in East Bay; no injuries to passengers: Fire officials

An Amtrak train derailed after hitting a tree near Port Costa, Calif. Tuesday afternoon. Fire officials say none of the 55 passengers were injured.

"At least we were able to open for business this morning on time and providing reliable service today. And that's what we need to do moving forward. We can't really have too many of these types of incidents and expect the public to trust us," said BART spokesperson Jim Allison.

If human error is to blame there will be changes.

"It certainly will involve some new training and new protocols," said Allen. "I am really hoping we get something out to the public and say this is what happened and we are very sorry to the people impacted by this."

Allen says she hopes they have answers as to the cause of the derailment in a week.

The California Public Utilities Commission was on site Monday and is also conducting a separate investigation.

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