NTSB launches investigation into BART worker deaths

Workers killed in accident identified

The National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation into the deaths of two BART workers who were struck by a train during maintenance work on Saturday.

Oakland resident Laurence Daniels, 66, and 58-year-old Christopher Sheppard, of Hayward, were killed in a collision shortly before 2 p.m. on a northbound track around one mile north of Walnut Creek.

NTSB investigator Jim Southworth said the agency will be in the Bay Area for the next four to 10 days collecting information. The agency has walked the area of the collision and requested relevant documents, images and data from BART, and will interview those involved and inspect all involved equipment, Southworth said.

It could be six months to a year or longer before a final report is issued, however, Southworth said. That report could include recommendations for changes to prevent similar accidents in the future.

The four-car train involved in the collision was a "non-revenue" train, meaning that there were no passengers on board. Southworth said investigators would determine, among other things, who was driving the train, how fast it was going and why it was on the tracks at the time.

The train was not equipped with a forward-facing video camera that would show the tracks, but did have a video camera inside the cab that could help show who was there when the collision occurred, he said.

The two men who were killed -- a BART employee and a contractor -- were inspecting a reported dip in the tracks on the Pittsburg-Bay Point line, when they were struck by an out-of-service train that was being moved to Concord, BART assistant general manager Paul Oversier said Saturday.

The two victims, whose names had not been released as of Sunday morning, were declared dead at the scene.

Oversier said the two men were highly experienced track workers.

Some question remains about who was at the controls of the train. BART officials initially issued a statement on Saturday saying that an

experienced operator was at the controls of the train but that it was operating under computer control.

However, Oversier later partially retreated from that statement, saying he did not know who was at the controls of the train.

BART trains are not carrying passengers during the strike, but BART officials have said some managers have been trained to operate the trains for maintenance purposes in the event of a strike. They have not yet said, however, whether the train's operator in the incident was a


None of those on board the train at the time of the collision were injured.

The deaths occurred in the second day of a strike involving BART's two largest unions, the Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555.

Southworth said he was aware of the strike and the investigation would consider whether it played a role in the collision.

No new contract talks occurred Sunday in the wake of the deaths, but BART officials have said they will hold an emergency board meeting Monday to discuss labor negotiations. A spokeswoman said Sunday that the agency is open to reopening talks.

Union officials held two candlelight vigils Sunday evening for the victims.

One was scheduled to take place at the Walnut Creek BART Station, and a second at Lake Merritt Plaza in Oakland. Both were scheduled to start

at 6 p.m.


Posted by Julia, a resident of Alamo
on Oct 21, 2013 at 10:47 am

Very sad sincere condolences to the families of the two men killed in this accident.

Just my opinion...On the surface it appears the BART train was operating under computer control. That in it self may have led the assigned operator to leave the control cabin and wander in the passenger area of the train as it was speeding down the track. I am assuming if he or she was where he or she was supposed to be he or she would have seen the work crew and would have sounded the BART train horn warning the two workers that the train was approaching. I am so sorry to say it appears like another damn human error.

Again, just my opinion. And again my sincere condolences to the families

Julia Pardini from Alamo

Posted by Cholo, a resident of another community
on Oct 21, 2013 at 5:19 pm

The deaths of 2 BART employees is tragic indeed.

Hopefully, the investigators will conduct a very thorough investigation.

Until the report is completed, I will not assume that the deaths of the two employees was an "accident".

A union strike was in process.

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