After NBC Bay Area obtained a video two weeks ago via an anonymous source showing the in-cab footage of an untrained BART operator whose train fatally collided with two workers on the tracks in October 2013, BART is now seeking legal sanctions against the safety enforcement arm of the Public Utilities Commission, claiming that the agency leaked the video to the news station. As NBC's investigative reporter Jaxon Van Derbeken reports this week, BART is blaming the agency for compromising the integrity of the regulatory proceedings against them as a result of the accident, and they seem to be out for revenge perhaps because the video is yet another bit of bad PR for them.
Why else, asks State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), would BART be spending $500,000 on lawyers to seek these sanctions, given the fact that they only stand to be fined $600,000 by the PUC over this incident. Also, Hill tells NBC Bay Area that he thinks BART's efforts to blame the workers themselves for their own deaths is "shameful."
In its filing with a regulatory judge last week, BART contends "A breach like this goes to the heart of this proceeding’s integrity and the commission’s authority over SED (the CPUC’s Safety Enforcement Division). [We believe it's] sufficiently serious to warrant convening an evidentiary hearing."
The video from October 19, 2013, which you can see below, had been under seal since February. It shows the 25 minutes leading up to the crash, which happened near Walnut Creek station in the middle of the afternoon. The rookie train operator, an unnamed BART manager who had been enlisted to undergo an abbreviated training in running the trains because of the strike by BART operators that was occurring that month, is largely alone in the cab of the train, which was not carrying any passengers. His trainer, transportation manager Paul Liston, was supposed to remain at his side according to BART regulations, but was instead back in the passenger compartment and other evidence has shown that he was texting and talking on the phone just prior to the incident.
Damningly, the video shows him jokingly chastising the operator for repeatedly calling him up to the cab for help. "How many more times are you going to make me get up . G**dammit?" Liston says.
Not long after, coming around a long curve around which the two workers on the tracks BART engineer Christopher Sheppard and consultant Laurence Daniels apparently could not see or hear the train, you can see the operator quickly realize he is on a collision course with them at 68 miles per hour, and attempts to hit the train horn at the last second. The video shows him hit the "door close" button by accident, which is right above the horn button, and the two men were tragically hit by surprise after no sound of the horn.
BART was also supposed to have issued a radio alert to the men about the train in the area, however that never came, as NBC found in related documents.
Under BART rules that were in place at the time, the men on the tracks were supposed to be taking their own safety in their hands, and were supposed to employ a lookout while they were conducting a track inspection. However it can be argued that their lax adherence to the rules was due to the fact that the strike was going on, and they didn't expect to encounter any running trains.
The CPUC’s Safety Enforcement Division has argued that the video and other evidence prove that there were safety violations warranting a $600,000 fine. BART, meanwhile, has argued that the agency lacks the legal authority to issue fines to BART for violating BART's own rules.