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Surveillance video captures tram/trolley station accident in SF

CCTV:SAN FRANCISCO,July 18/09.New video of last Saturday’s collision between two Muni trains was released Wednesday, showing images that a Muni spokesman described as “flat-out disturbing.”

The video of the accident from cameras mounted inside the West Portal Muni station where the accident took place Saturday afternoon just before 3 p.m.

A K-Train had just unloaded passengers and was stopped waiting for the signal to exit the tunnel. Right behind it, an L-Train keeps coming and coming until the violent impact.

Passengers on the platform seem initially shocked at the collision, but then approach the train seemingly to check on the passengers.

A Muni spokesman said the video is hard to watch.

It's flat out disturbing to see one train hit another like that, said agency spokesman Judson True.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators said the video is part of their examination into what happened and why. The crash sent four people to the hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries. 43 others were less seriously injured.

The investigation could take up to a year, according to the NTSB.

The driver of the L-Train, 61-year-old Henry Gray, told authorities he blacked out moments before the collision.

Investigators said before losing consciousness, Gray switched the train controls from automatic to manual, which is against Muni protocols.

But Muni drivers said it is a common practice to save time. Muni officials have since issued an edict.

"What we have done since Saturday is reinforce the existing rule about not switching to manual without notifying central control," said Muni spokesman True. "We've done that through bulletins to all operators."

This was one of a number of guidelines Muni implemented Monday aimed at increasing safety in the wake of the West Portal station crash.

Train operators will be written up if they are observed in manual, or cutout, mode without authorization from central control.

Additionally, if a train is seen moving in manual control without central control permission, the train controller will stop the train and contact its operator. Hourly announcements started Monday to remind operators that they must not go into manual mode or bypass any vehicle function, or change operating modes, without approval from central control.

Also on Monday, a bulletin was issued to light rail vehicle operators to remind them of existing rules and instructions regarding the changing of operating modes.

Supervisors at the Embarcadero, Church and Duboce and West Portal stations have also been alerted of the enforcement regarding the changing of operating modes.

"These quick actions show that we will take all necessary steps to make the system as safe as possible," said True.

The accident could be an expensive one for the city given the number of injured passengers. Muni can expect lawsuits. The agency has paid out over $60 million to injured passengers over the past seven years.

Christopher Dolan, a San Francisco attorney who has frequently represented clients in lawsuits against Muni, said the injured passengers have a strong case.

"Somebody who transports people for money has the highest duty of care," said Dolan. "Turning off a safety mechanism for expediency breaches any duty of care."

This video of the crash will likely play a role in the lawsuits that are sure to come.

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Added: Jul-22-2009 Occurred On: Jul-18-2009
By: jdischord
Tags: Surveillance, video, captures, tram/trolley, station, accident, in, SF
Location: San Francisco, California, United States (load item map)
Marked as: featured
Views: 63617 | Comments: 53 | Votes: 7 | Favorites: 6 | Shared: 2 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 2
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