After Sunday’s BART train’s brake overload sent SFFD to Civic Center Station on reports of an explosion and smoke, BART officials hastened to downplay the problem, disputing witness reports of fire and saying that there was only a small amount of smoke in the air.
After the incident, Civic Center Station was evacuated and closed, and trains through San Francisco were halted in both directions for about an hour.
Though no one was harmed, BART riders on the scene disagree with official reports of the incident. As the Chron reports, those on the Pittsburg/Bay Point train whose brakes overloaded reported seeing not just smoke, but a sheet of fire.
Meggie Ghidella told the Chron, “All of sudden there was this big noise, it was a boom, and there were sparks that came up between the wall and the train. And then there were flames; not a couple flames, but a sheet of fire. I saw people hammering against the doors, and I was really like, ‘Oh, we need to get out of here.’”
A visitor from Louisville, KY told the Examiner that he saw an equally chaotic scene, saying “It was crazy. There was a loud noise and a bang. First there was a static noise then lots of heat and flames — about 10 feet high.”
A BART official insists to the Chron that there was no fire, with BART spokesman Jim Allison attributing the accounts to “a large orange power arc.” BART police Lt. Tyrone Forte told the Ex that “there was no fire or explosion, just a lot of smoke caused by an overload to one of the train’s brakes.”
Victoria Jarvis of Oakland is not having it, telling the Chron “it made me feel like I was going crazy. BART was saying there was no fire, and I was telling my friends I saw fire. If they didn’t know, then they shouldn’t have issued that statement. They are obviously lying, or completely unaware of what happened down there.”