NTSB cites former BART policy of ‘simple approval’ as probable cause for two worker deaths in 2013

BART’s since-suspended “simple approval” practice was the probable cause of an accident that killed two track workers in Contra Costa County in 2013, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a report issued this week.

The NTSB adopted its report Monday in the case of Christopher Sheppard, 58, of Hayward and Laurence Daniels, 66, of Fair Oaks, who were struck and killed Oct. 19, 2013, while inspecting a dip in the tracks between BART’s Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill stations.

At the time, the northbound train had no passengers on board and was being used for training of management employees to work as substitute operators and system maintenance workers during a strike by BART’s two largest unions.

The “simple approval” practice had track workers get authorization from BART’s control center to enter the trackway “with no additional protective measures or restrictions provided,” the NTSB report said. The train that hit the workers left the Walnut Creek station and was traveling at 68 mph within 28 seconds. At 1:44 p.m., the operator trainee on board repeatedly hit the red emergency stop button and shouted, “Look out!” and “No, no, no!” but the train hit the workers 4.7 seconds later, the report said.

The day after the deaths, BART issued a memorandum prohibiting simple approvals and said trains in work areas must slow down to a maximum speed of 27 mph.

In a statement issued in response to the report, BART said it has implemented many new safety measures since the accident. They include that trains cannot proceed if a worker is within 6 feet of the trackway; workers undergo safety training of eight to 32 hours, depending on their duties; and someone is required to watch the trackway when maintenance vehicles are working even if trains are not running.

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