Speeding may have led to Muni light rail crash

The Muni light-rail train that rear-ended another train Saturday was probably traveling about 14 mph too fast for the zone it was in, according to agency officials.

A one-car T-Third train hit the back of a two-car N-Judah that was stopped at a red light on King Street near AT&T Park on Saturday.

The T-Third was traveling at 17 mph in a 3 mph zone, and its operator did not attempt to use the vehicle’s emergency brake before the collision, according to Nathaniel Ford, executive director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

Eyewitness accounts from a nearby traffic supervisor, combined with a mechanical device aboard the T-Third train, helped determine the speed of the vehicle, according to Ford.

“Our inspector at the scene said the T-Third was moving too fast,” Ford said.

The crash injured 16 people, including 12 who were hospitalized.

Muni officials are also investigating whether the operator of the T-Third, who joined Muni’s light rail division in 2004, was using a cell phone while driving the train, which is prohibited by state law, Ford said. Footage from aboard the train showed the male operator holding a cell phone in his hand following the collision. Ford said the department has requested records of the operator’s cell phone use.

Today, the driver of the T-Third train will meet with Muni officials. Ford said he hopes a full report on the accident will be completed by Thursday or Friday.

“We plan on releasing an extremely thorough and transparent report,” Ford said. “But, before we do that, we have to examine everything and consider every possibility.”

Operators of both trains involved in the collision were tested for drugs and alcohol and placed on administrative leave, standard procedure following accidents, according to Ford. The results from the drug and alcohol tests could be released by today, Ford said.

All the passengers hospitalized in the collision — including both train operators — have been released from area medical centers, Ford said.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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