WALNUT CREEK, Calif. — A commuter train that is part of a San Francisco Bay Area system whose employees are on strike hit and killed two maintenance workers Saturday afternoon, officials said.
The accident in the East Bay city of Walnut Creek occurred shortly before 2 p.m. as the train was on a routine maintenance operated by nonunion staff members, Bay Area Rapid Transit officials said in a statement.
BART officials said an “experienced operator” was at the controls, but did not specify who it was. The train was being run in automatic mode under computer control at the time of the accident, the statement said.
Union representatives have warned of the danger that could come with allowing managers to operate trains.
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The two dead were one BART employee and one contractor who were performing track inspections in response to a reported dip in the track, BART said.
“Both people had extensive experience working around moving trains in both the freight train and the rapid transit industry,” BART said.
The procedures for such maintenance require one employee to inspect the track and the other to serve as a lookout for oncoming traffic, BART officials said, but they did not immediately say whether that procedure was being followed.
The accident occurred about a mile from the Walnut Creek station and some 25 miles northeast of San Francisco. The victim’s names and ages were not immediately released.
BART management and officials from two unions representing workers have been at an impasse over contract negotiations since Thursday as the system that links San Francisco and Oakland to Bay Area suburbs goes through its second work stoppage in less than three months.
The president of one of the two unions involved in the transit strikes said Saturday she will take the final contract offer to members for a vote, but expects it will be rejected.
Antonette Bryant said she was unsure how long it would take to get the proposal printed and into the hands of the 900 workers represented by ATU 1555.
“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.”
BART spokesman Rick Rice said Saturday that the two sides remain in communication.