UPDATE: State launches investigation into Muni doors that trapped and dragged a woman

SFMTA officials say they have installed new edge sensors on seven new trains

UPDATE 5:20 p.m.: State regulators have launched an investigation into Muni’s allegedly malfunctioning doors and broken couplers.

The California Public Utilities Commission, which oversees rail safety in California, has confirmed to the San Francisco Examiner its staff launched a probe into both issues.

“Yes, we are aware and we’re investigating what occurred and why,” said Constance Gordon, a spokesperson for the CPUC. “We’re looking at both the door concerns and the coupler pin issue on the new SFMTA cars.”

Both stories hit this week in two investigative reports: Muni’s door problems were exposed by the Examiner, and its coupler pin issues were exposed by NBC Bay Area. NBC Bay Area first reported the state investigation.

Both issues concern Muni’s $1.1 billion future fleet, constructed by Siemens USA.

The door malfunctions potentially injured a woman, in an incident that was caught in video obtained by the Examiner. Those doors “lock” on objects and do not let go, according to internal Muni tests.

Meanwhile, Muni also discovered two incidents last week of failed shear pins, which are steel rods that join train couplers. Since the issue was discovered the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has stopped running its two and three-car trains and instead is only running them in a single-car configuration.

Gordon said the CPUC met with SFMTA staffers Thursday and will meet with them again on Monday.

The original story follows, below:

New video obtained exclusively by the San Francisco Examiner shows a harrowing Muni incident from last Friday, in which a woman had her hand trapped in a train and was dragged on to the tracks.

The incident was at the center of an investigative story by the Examiner Thursday, which revealed internal Muni testing documents discussing the door malfunctions on San Francisco’s $1.1 billion new Muni fleet. The doors have in some instances closed on objects — and people — and “lock” shut.

When the original story ran, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency did not reveal video of the incident. Now the Examiner has obtained it through internal Muni sources.

That video shows the woman in question, clad in purple, attempt to enter the N-Judah train headed outbound toward the Sunset District. She tries to enter the vehicle, and her hand becomes caught in the door. A Muni staffer in a yellow hazard vest, presumably a station agent, approaches her and gestures to her to move away from the vehicle.

Watch the video of the incident, above.

Perhaps not realizing she is stuck, the station agent then turns his back to her and toward other Muni patrons who he motions away from the train.

While his back is turned, the train begins to move, pulling the woman with it. She starts to run with the train but is quickly pulled down, between the train and the platform. The angle of the video makes seeing the next part difficult, but it appears she may have fallen under the train.

SFMTA has in its possession more angles of video that show the incident from the perspective of other cameras present on the train, which it has not yet released.

Will Hayworth, a San Francisco-based software engineer, witnessed the incident and told the Examiner the woman fell to the tracks and suffered a “giant gash” on her forehead. She was taken to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital in “serious condition,” according to the San Francisco Fire Department.

General Hospital spokespeople did not respond to requests to verify if the woman was still hospitalized or provide information on her current condition.

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose previously asserted the Muni train doors are “safe.” He also said new door edge sensors were installed on seven of the new trains out of 64.

Phil Chin, from the transportation advocacy group Chinatown TRIP, who also worked in Muni management from 1991 to 2001, said the agency needs to “knuckle down” and figure out what’s wrong with the doors.

“I think it’s an overall management issue in doing due diligence before they buy,” he said. “I don’t know how much of a rush they were in before bringing in the cars.”

Muni officials went to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to approve $64 million to “fast-track” the purchase of the vehicles just this month.

joe@sfexaminer.com

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