OAKLAND, Calif. — A San Francisco Bay Area commuter train returning from routine maintenance struck and killed two workers who were inspecting the tracks Saturday afternoon — an accident that comes amid a strike that has shut the Bay Area Rapid Transit system down to riders for the past few days.
BART officials said in a statement that the manager who was operating the train was an “experienced operator,” and the four-car train was being run in automatic mode under computer control at the time of the accident.
Officials from the unions representing BART’s train operators and some of the system’s other workers have warned of the danger that could come with allowing managers to operate trains. The unions have been on strike since Friday.
One system employee and one contractor were killed in the accident in the East Bay city of Walnut Creek shortly before 2 p.m. The train had been at a yard where workers had been cleaning off graffiti, BART officials said.
“This is a tragic day in BART’s history,” the system’s general manager, Grace Crunican, said in a statement. “The entire BART family is grieving.”
One of the unions on strike, Amalgamated Transit Union 1555, announced that its 900 workers would not be picketing on Sunday out of respect for the victims and their families.
Also Saturday, ATU local president Antonette Bryant said she was taking a final contract offer from BART before members for a vote, but expects it will be rejected.
“It’s our hope we can get it to members this week,” Bryant told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. She said she expects the vote to be “a resounding no.”
Bryant later issued a statement, saying Saturday’s accident was a “terrible human tragedy.”
The two workers killed were performing track inspections about a mile from the Walnut Creek station in an area some 25 miles northeast of San Francisco, BART said. They were responded to a reported dip in the track.