Two workers who were struck and killed by a BART train on Saturday have been identified by the Contra Costa County coroner’s office as Laurence Daniels and Christopher Sheppard.
The two were struck shortly before 2 p.m. Saturday about a mile north of the Walnut Creek station. Daniels, a 66-year-old Oakland resident, was a contractor working with BART. Sheppard, 58, lived in Hayward and was a member of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3993.
That union, which is not striking, represents about 210 BART employees, mostly middle managers. According to BART, Daniels and Sheppard were investigating a report of a dip in the tracks on the Pittsburg-Bay Point line and were struck by a train being moved to Concord. BART officials said both men were highly experienced track workers.
The incident occurred two days into the BART strike that is now in its fourth day. Agency officials said there were six people on the train when it struck the workers, and that no one on board was injured.
BART officials initially issued a statement on Saturday saying an experienced operator was at the controls of the train but that it was operating in automatic mode. However, BART assistant general manager Paul Oversier later partially retreated from that statement, saying he did not yet know who was at the controls when the accident happened.
Richard Stingily, a senior foreworker who supervises rail operations at the Concord station, said today his understanding is that the person operating the train on Saturday was a manager and former train operator who had not operated a train for 12 or 13 years. Stingily was not was not working at the time of the accident.
Stingily said the deaths underscore some of the safety issues that BART’s unions have been highlighting during the past several months in their negotiations with management.
“An experienced train operator would have prevented that,” Stingily said. “They deal with that every day, that’s their job.”
“It’s just an absolute tragedy,” he said. “This is exactly what we’ve been talking about, people being forced to be out in unsafe environments … it’s just tragically unfortunate that it had to be exposed in this manner.”
BART officials have said some managers have been trained to operate trains for maintenance purposes during the strike, but did not say whether it was a manager who was at the controls of the train.
The National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation into the deaths.
The agency will be requesting all relevant documents, images and data from BART and will interview those involved, NTSB investigator Jim Southworth said Sunday.
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