A San Francisco Bay Area commuter train returning from routine maintenance struck and killed two workers who were inspecting the tracks yesterday afternoon—an accident that comes amid a strike that has shut the Bay Area Rapid Transit system down for the past few days. The four-car train was being run in automatic mode under computer control at the time of the accident, BART's Assistant General Manager Paul Oversier said. There were several people aboard the train, Oversier said, but he would not say who was operating the train. In an earlier statement, BART said only that the person was an experienced operator.
One system employee and one contractor were killed in the accident shortly before 2pm. The train had been at a yard where workers had been cleaning off graffiti, BART officials said. 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 as BART had planned to do in case of a strike. One of the unions on strike, Amalgamated Transit Union 1555, announced that its 900 workers would not be picketing today out of respect for the victims and their families. BART officials wouldn't address questions on the union's warnings about train safety during a walkout. "The labor issues are not in the forefront of our mind," Oversier said. "We've just lost two people in the BART family." The NTSB announced late yesterday that it will take over the investigation. (Read more BART stories.)