Two workers killed by BART train the district was using on a "training run," despite safety warnings from the striking unions
He ridiculed statements by district officials that the unions are resisting modernizing the system. "Some of the people in BART have technology degrees," Castelli told the Guardian. "They're keeping the trains from wrecking, so we're not afraid of technology."
Instead, both Daly and Castelli said that the district was deliberately trying to provoke a strike by making a last minute demand that it knew would be unacceptable to the unions. "It's to make us strike. The public is devastated by this, and for good reason, and we're very sympathetic. So they're thinking that, 'Maybe we make them strike one more time and they'll fold," Castelli told us. "Our only other option is submission and surrender."
On the second day of the strike, Oct. 19, two BART workers were struck and killed by a northbound train in Walnut Creek, and the NTSB investigation could take as long as a year to draw conclusions about what happened.
What we do know is this: Christopher Sheppard, a BART manager and member of the AFSCME union, and Larry Daniels, a contractor, were inspecting a "dip in the rail" before they were hit by an oncoming train. There was a camera inside the train facing the cabin, but no camera facing out towards the track.
Longtime BART safety trainer Saul Almanza arrived at the scene shortly after the public was notified of the accident. He described the site of the crash as gruesome, in an interview with the Guardian. He had Sheppard and Daniels in his safety classes. He knew them. He stared downward as he remembered seeing the forms of his fellow workers under yellow sheets.
Shortly before NTSB's Southworth revealed that the operators were in training for their safety certification, one longtime BART safety expert sat with the Guardian to explain the rules that protect workers lives out on a track — rules that have been a big part of the labor negotiations, with unions insisting on better safety protections.
Almanza spent years training workers in the rules that may have failed the workers who died over the weekend. Much of training revolves around safety procedures of BART's Simple Approval process, meant to protect workers on the rail.
Simple Approval keeps the Operations Control Center "aware of the presence of personnel in a specified location in the trackway," according to a BART safety manual. When workers are preparing to work on a track, they must recite the simple approval to the control center, also known as central control. It works like signing a waiver, saying that you understand the rules of safety, and more importantly, that you can work on the track without diverting trains.
Cars of steel can whip by at any moment, so it's important for workers to use simple approval to signal to central control that they are prepared. But it's also a warning system. Once simple approval is given, train operators are supposed to be notified that someone is working on the tracks.
When central control enters that information into the computer, an automated message is relayed to all of the BART system, including trains, warning which tracks have workers in harm's way. Alarmingly, audio from BART dispatch, obtained by journalist Matthew Keys, revealed that the automated message from central relayed that there were no workers on the tracks.
It was wrong.
Freelance journalist Matthew Keys captured dispatch audio from BART erroneously reporting no workers were on the tracks.
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