Family Members of Dead Worker Sues California Rail Line

May 19, 2014

Family members of one of two track workers struck and killed by a San Francisco Bay Area commuter train have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the embattled transit agency.

Two daughters of Laurence Daniels say in the suit filed Friday in Alameda County Superior Court that a Bay Area Rapid Transit train was driven by “an inexperienced and not properly trained operator-in-training,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported Saturday.

Calls to a BART spokeswoman for comment were not immediately returned Saturday.

Daniels, 66, a BART engineer, and Christopher Sheppard, 58, a rail consultant, were killed Oct. 19 during a training and maintenance run as the train traveled in excess of 60 miles per hour. Their deaths occurred while workers from two of BART’s largest unions were on their second strike within four months and train service was halted.

Amber and Sarah Daniels filed the lawsuit for unspecified damages a month after the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health fined BART $210,000, stating the train was operated by an inexperienced driver with inadequate supervision.

A high-ranking manager who was supposed to be instructing the driver of the four-car BART train was not in the cab with the trainee when the incident occurred, Cal/OSHA said in citing the rail agency for “willful serious safety violations.”

Cal/OSHA also faulted BART for its since-discontinued practice of making track workers solely responsible for their own safety. Under the procedure, the men received no prior warning that a train might be coming through the area. One worker was supposed to be acting as lookout, but neither did, state workplace safety inspectors found.

BART has since changed its rules, requiring trains to slow down, stop or change course as they approach track workers, and implemented new communication protocols.

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