NTSB probe into BART accident could take months A federal investigation of last weekend’s BART accident could take months to complete and will keep the section of track where it occurred shut down for days, authorities said.
Jim Southworth, the National Transportation Safety Board's railroad accident investigator-in-charge, said even if the current BART workers strike were to end on Monday, the section of track near the Walnut Creek station will be shut down for several more days.
‘"These accidents occur in an instant, but they take very long to investigate," he said.
Meanwhile, the coroner has identified the two men killed as Laurence Daniels, 66, of Oakland, and Christopher Sheppard, a 58-year-old Hayward resident.
Southworth said it is too early to know how fast the train was going or if workers saw or heard it coming. He and a colleague hoped to interview the person who was operating the train and BART dispatchers as soon as Monday.
Track workers safety has been an area of emphasis for the NTSB this year.
The NTSB has been promoting improved safety measures for track maintenance crews since the May death of a foreman who was killed by a passenger train in West Haven, Conn., spokesman Eric Weiss said.
In June, the board urged the Metro-North Railroad to provide backup protection for crews that were relying on dispatchers to close tracks while they are being worked on and to light the appropriate signals.
The investigators now in California will be checking to see if BART uses "shunts" — a device that crews can attach to the rails in a work zone that gives approaching trains a stop signal — or any other of the backup measures the NTSB recommended for the Metro-North system, Weiss said.
"Obviously, we are very concerned anytime anyone dies in transportation accidents, but we're very interested in the issue of track worker deaths right now," he said.
A 2007 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that between 1993 and 2002 a total of 460 railroad workers died on the job, 132 of them were pedestrian workers struck by trains and other rail vehicles. Of all the accidents, 62 involved local passenger trains.
Although freight trains are required to have forward-facing cameras, there is no standard practice for subway trains, Weiss said.
Southworth said the BART train involved in the accident did not have a front-facing video recorder.
As to the role the on-going strike played in the accident, Southworth said time will tell.
"My concern coming out here, as it is for every investigation, is to find out what happened, to gather the facts," he said. "Whether the strike plays a role in that I can't say at this time."
Watchdogs are questioning an exclusive agreement between the City of Oakland and a non-profit group, tapped to lead a multi-million dollar project to redevelop the area around the Coliseum BART station.