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Questions remain in double-fatal BART train accident

Federal investigators may delve into the idea known as simple-approval, a procedure used in some places when workers go near railroad tracks to perform duties. A spokesperson for the Metro transit system in the Los Angeles area says that the simple-approval system is not recognized in L.A., according to the San Francisco Chronicle. But, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system apparently still allows workers to use the system.

In 2008, state regulators found that the simple-approval system contributed to the death of a BART track inspector. The issue seems to be back on the radar in the investigation of this past weekend’s double-fatal work-related accident.

Under the system, workers who go near tracks work in pairs, with one acting as a spotter. The workers must have an exit plan in place and the spotter must be able to see any train 15 seconds before it arrives at the location where the workers are present.

Sources say that the two workers killed Saturday in the BART train accident were checking out a track issue and intended to use the simple-approval procedure.

A BART engineer and a contractor went on the tracks to inspect the reported dip in the tracks Saturday afternoon purportedly using simple-approval. An investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board says that the operator controlling the train was in training.

NTSB investigators say that the train was moving 60 to 70 miles per hour when it struck the two men on the tracks. The accident occurred during a BART strike. The operator reportedly was aware that the men were on the tracks. But, the Chronicle suggests that there was some confusion in radio transmissions before the fatal accident.

One transmission reportedly indicated that there was nobody on the tracks. That automated message was followed by a male voice saying that transmission should be disregarded. The man announced that there were indeed personnel wayside. The two men were fatally struck on the tracks between the Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill stations Saturday afternoon around 1:30 p.m.

The investigation continues.

In general, families of fatal accident victims may be left with many unanswered questions as a federal or state probe drags on. Some grieving family members may also have difficulties in seeking assistance during the traumatic time. But, legal counsel familiar with work-related fatalities can provide advice and assistance in navigating the issues during these times of uncertainty.

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle, “BART workers on tracks don't get train warnings,” Demian Bulwa, Oct. 21, 2013

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