BART police have confirmed that two BART workers were struck and killed by a BART train that was “under computer control” this afternoon.

A report of two people hit by a train on the BART trackway between Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill came in a short time before 2 PM, BART police Lt. Paul Kwon said.

According to a statement sent by BART to media, one BART employee and a contractor were struck at approximately 1:53 PM.

The workers “were performing track inspections in response to a report of a dip in the track” BART said in their statement.

“Both people had extensive experience working around moving trains in both the freight train and the rapid transit industry,” BART said.

According to BART, track maintenance procedures require one employee to act as a lookout and to watch for oncoming traffic while the other works.

Although BART employees are on strike and trains are not picking up passengers today, a limited number of trains are running along the system for maintenance and security reasons, a BART spokeswoman said Friday.

β€œThe trains are running around the system to keep the tracks in good shape,” Salaver said.

BART officials have said some managers have been trained to operate the trains for maintenance purposes in the event of a strike. BART has not confirmed, however, if the train’s operator in today’s incident was a manager.

According to BART, the train that struck and killed the workers “was on a routine maintenance run with an experienced operator at the controls. At the time of the accident the train was being run in automatic mode under computer control.”

According to BART radio transmissions captured by Matthew Keys, a male train operators reports a “BART emergency.” Moments later, he says that “both are deceased and definitely BART employees.”

Another transmission seems to suggest that BART staff believed that there were no personnel on their tracks:

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 said on its official Twitter account that it will not picket tomorrow “out of respect for the families involved.”

In a joint statement sent to media, SEIU 1021 and ATU 1555 said that they “express our deepest sympathies for the families of the individuals who died in this tragic accident.”

“Our hearts go out to any @SFBART comrades involved in today’s incident,” ATU 1555 tweeted earlier today. “In the midst of this #BARTstrike, NO ONE deserves to die.”

Via emailed statement, BART General Manager Grace Crunican said “This is a tragic day in BART’s history.”

“The entire BART family is grieving,” Crunican said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of our deceased co-workers.”

BART has declined release the names of the victims at this time. According to Crunican, “this accident is under investigation. All the proper authorities have been notified.”

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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  • bartr

    not pedestrians…BART workers, stop the lies

  • Forrest Blocker

    http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_24345866/bart-train-strikes-two-people-near-walnut-creek

    There is an audio recording of the whole incident. A manager (not engineer) was directing the train. Very clear.

  • Michael Rocker

    If there is a strike the trains should not have been running. PERIOD

  • withak30

    This is pretty messed up. When someone is working on the track like this there is supposed to be one person whose only responsibility is to watch for trains, even if no trains are scheduled to be there.

  • DrDuran

    the first two people you hear on the recording are not on the train involved, they are moving train cars in one of the yards, then you hear Central talk to train 963 (the train involved in the accident) followed by train 963 declaring an emergency after striking the people working on the track.

  • CAL FIRE NEWS

    Matthew Keys did not capture this rcording he just repackaged it… such a tool he never learns… #RR

  • John Smith

    The uploader also posted transmissions of one of the two late BART employees reporting to dispatch/operations control that his work order was to be between c40 and c50 (where they were hit). Operations confirms the locations immediately and accurately, but then an automated message states that nobody is on the track, and then the human operator quickly corrects it and says [disregard the machine, there are persons wayside between c40 and c50]. This exchange likely happened before they went onto the tracks. Later, the order told to train 963 (the train that hit the employees) was that the work was being done near c53 and c54, 3 miles away from the accident. In someone’s transcript of the recording of the accident, the operations-control dispatcher tells train 963 that the work order around c53 and c54 was cancelled. According to another article I read, the train hit the two at 70 mph, full speed.

    Now my conjecture: Somewhere down the line, operations control had the wrong information despite it being provided to them accurately before the incident by one of the two victims. My guess is that the victim submitted a work order earlier in the day with c53 and c54 and changed the work order it to c40 and c50 before entering the tracks. The fact that he radio’d in his position and the dispatcher confirms the new location, makes me believe that a change in work order is common practice, or at the very least can be handled properly by operations control. However, the automated message makes me believe that either (A) information was entered incorrectly into the computer OR (B) nobody changed the work order in the computer. Either way, I think the computer had the wrong information or none at all. All of the BART trains are operated by computers. The train operators only hit the e-brakes and hold the “door-open” button to let people on and off the train. They can also press buttons that put speed-restrictions on the train. Now I may be exaggerating based on information I heard from BART management, but they aren’t holding down a gas-pedal so they can’t let off when they see something off. I don’t think the operator expected anyone on the track at that point of the incident (he wasn’t told anyone was there), so I can’t blame him. When workers foul the tracks, one person is supposed to be a flag man and watch out for trains. The worker who called in explicitly made note that he knew the third (power) rail was live and that he’d respect operational trains. So I guess he was expecting the speed restriction on his section of track which makes the train max out at 20 mph (or something similar) via computer control. So he wasn’t expecting a 70 mph train to barrel down the tracks. Obviously, neither saw or heard the vehicle which makes me think that they were both breaking protocol by not watching out, which is unfortunate, but 70 mph train moves 100 feet per second, so a two second lapse in vigilance and 200 feet visibility could be fatal. Especially when the track is next to a freeway (which it was) creating high background noise levels. In this scenario I can see two mistakes: (1) the computer controller had the wrong info and (2) the employees weren’t watching.
    Of course, my conjecture is just that. I look forward to the full report to make sure this never happens again.

    It’s a true shame this happened. My heart goes out to the families of the two deceased. Truly, these members of the BART community will be missed greatly. Their dedication to keeping the BART system running as good as possible will be missed.