A sightseeing trip on a San Francisco cable car turned into a harrowing experience for a handful of tourists on Monday when a city van and the cable car entered a collision course.
The accident happened at about 5:15 p.m. at the intersection of Washington and Mason streets, near the San Francisco Cable Car Museum.
Muni spokesman Judson True said the van was a San Francisco Recreation and Park Department vehicle.
He said four cable car passengers were injured in the accident, and that two were taken to a hospital. The other two were treated at the scene.
True did not have details on how Monday’s accident happened but said that intersection is controlled by a blinking red light. When a cable car passes through, he said, the lights change to solid red and the cable car has the right-of-way.
Liz Lanigan and her friend Keith Wilk, who are visiting from Massachusetts, had just visited the Buena Vista Cafe for Irish coffees and were on their way back to the Westin St. Francis Hotel in Union Square when the accident occurred.
Lanigan said the cable car was making a left onto Washington Street from Mason Street when the van came straight across Washington Street and into the cable car’s path.
It is not clear whether the two vehicles made contact – True said neither vehicle was damaged and Lanigan said she didn’t feel any impact – but the van’s mirror may have hooked onto one of the passengers.
“(The) mirror caught one of the people hanging off the side and started to drag her off,” Lanigan said.
People started screaming for the van’s driver to stop, Lanigan said.
“Everybody was afraid she was going to get dragged off and fall between the car and the cable car,” she said.
The van stopped and the woman who was hit by the mirror and another woman were taken to the nearby Gallery Cafe where they were tended to before being transported to a hospital, Lanigan said.
Tony Wun, the owner of the cafe, said one woman had a small bump on her head and the other appeared to have suffered a foot or ankle injury. He said neither was bleeding or appeared seriously injured.
Lanigan, who was sitting in the enclosed area of the cable car, also said the women didn’t appear to be badly hurt. She said they were from Texas and had been cheerfully chatting with the cable car operator just before the accident.
“Within five minutes the whole atmosphere changed from everybody joking and laughing to everybody going ‘Oh my God,'” Lanigan said.
The accident remains under investigation by the San Francisco Police Department.
Although Lanigan’s friend Wilk swore off cable cars after the accident, his resolution didn’t last long; the two rode another one today, she said.
“We get on the one today and the guy goes, ‘There’s room if you want to hang out the side,'” she said. They declined.