mbrown1.jpgSo, Muni sent out an update on the investigation into Saturday’s Muni crash. Other than reiterating the new rules for operators forbidding them to switch the trains from manual to automatic without authorization, the piece of intelligence we found most interesting:

No surveillance video from either light rail vehicle (LRV) involved in the collision exists because the video system was not fully implemented on the entire light rail fleet during the vehicle procurement process. All video surveillance systems on Muni light rail vehicles are being inspected and will be activated and functional as soon as possible.

While a lot of folks have suspected that Muni’s camera system wasn’t all that, this is the first admission of it we’ve heard. We’re following up to get a better understanding of why the internal camera system “was not fully implemented” and will let you know when we get answers.

The memo from the MTA also included an attachment from the NTSB investigator outlining his initial findings. Here it is:

In its continuing investigation of the collision between two San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) light rail trains on Saturday, injuring more than 40 people, NTSB Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker has announced the following factual information:

At about 2:50 p.m. PDT on Saturday, July 18, 2009, an L Line train struck the rear of a K Line train at the West Portal Station in San Francisco.

Data captured by recorders in the train control center indicated that the L Line train was switched from automatic to manual mode while stopped in the tunnel at the same time that the K Line train was occupying the track at the station. Approximately 24 seconds after the L Line train was switched to manual mode, it struck the stationary K line train. The L Line train was traveling at between 20 and 23 miles per hour at the time of the collision.

Post-accident examinations have not revealed any problems with the braking system or any other mechanical element of the train. There was no indication that the emergency brake was activated. An evaluation of the signal system did not reveal any anomalies or malfunctions with the performance or functionality of the system.

Rosenker said that the lead NTSB investigator interviewed the operators of both trains involved in the collision, as well as an employee monitoring operations and train activity at the train control center. The operator of the L train that struck the K train told the investigator that he “blacked out” as his train approached the platform. The NTSB will be reviewing the medical history and records of the operator as well as any current medical conditions or treatments that he may have been under at the time of the accident.

While there is no indication at this point that the use of a mobile phone played any role in the collision, the mobile phone records of the operator of the striking train have been subpoenaed for review, which is a routine aspect of such accident investigations.

SFMTA provided the Safety Board with a video recording of the collision that was taken from a surveillance camera mounted at the West Portal station. A copy of the video was sent to the NTSB’s vehicle recorder laboratory in Washington where an initial examination of the recording was completed today. The NTSB has released control of the video recording back to SFMTA.

The on-scene phase of the investigation has been completed and both of the Los Angeles-based NTSB investigators have returned to Southern California.

The parties to the investigation are SFMTA, the California Public Utilities Commission, and the Federal Transit Administration.

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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