"Terrifying Moments" Follow SF Muni Crash

Chaos follows "hard" impact

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A police officer looks over the trains involved in a two train Muni crash at the West Portal Station in San Francisco on July 18.

    Two Los Angeles-area investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are helping local officials determine the cause of a collision between two Muni trains that left dozens of people hurt.

    NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson says investigators will be working with San Francisco transit officials, interviewing the train drivers, passengers and witnesses.
     
    Knudson says the NTSB investigation will also focus on the condition of the train tracks, signal systems and the condition of the train cars involved.

    On Sunday, the tunnel where the accident happened was clear, rail service had resumed and there were no signs of investigators at the scene.
     
    Scott Aguiar, a cafe manager, said the crash was the hot topic in the quiet little shopping district.

    "People are talking about how MUNI is probably going to raise the fares again because of the upcoming lawsuits from the crash," he said.

    Saturday afternoon, a stopped Muni train at the West Portal station in San Francisco was rammed by a second train, injuring a total of 48  people on both trains.

    Muni Accident Victims Talk About the Accident

    [BAY] Muni Accident Victims Talk About the Accident
    NBC Bay Area's Jodi Hernandez talks with victims of the Muni Accident on Saturday.

    A K train was stopped in the station and passengers were unloading when an L train barreled into the station, rear-ending the K train at about 2:50 p.m. Saturday.

    "Given the recent transit system accidents around the country, we are especially concerned with what has happened here," said NTSB Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker.

    "We are determined to find the cause of this and the other transit accidents so that the issues that our investigations turn up can be addressed, leading to safer transit systems for our citizens," Rosenker said.

    Four of the injuries were "severe."

    Another 21 "walking wounded" were placed on a Muni bus and taken to a hospital.  It was not clear how the other injured people got to a hospital, but lots of bloodied passengers were seen taken away on gurneys.

    Elena Wong was on the stopped train and says passengers went flying on impact.

    "It felt like a movie. Glass shattered everywhere. There were emergency noises going off. Two people were lying on the ground crying. There was blood a on girl.  When she turned around she was completely covered in blood."

    Wong was on of the passengers who was treated and released Saturday night.

    "I was sitting. I went flying forward and hit a metal bar and then went flying back --- absolute shock," Wong said as she left the hospital.

    A woman who said she saw the crash told NBC Bay Area reporter Monte Francis that she noticed the L train operator who hit the stopped train had his head down at the time.  She said he could have been passed out, or asleep or not paying attention.  She said that part was not clear, but said he was not looking straight ahead as he "barreled into the stopped train."

    Another woman told Francis she saw the driver making gestures as if to say he could not stop the train.

    That driver is among the most seriously hurt and Muni said they had not been able to talk to him as of early Sunday.

    The West Portal station was closed for several hours after the crash while investigators tried to figure out what happened.

    The front of the L train suffered a lot of damage including a crushed front end and broken windows.

    A spokeswoman for San Francisco General Hospital said they initially received four patients and said all of them were stable.  She said SF General usually gets the most seriously hurt from accidents such as this.  By Sunday morning, all of the patients were said to be doing fine. 

    Both Muni and SF General said that none of the injuries were considered life threatening.

    Buses provided substitute transportation between the West Portal and Castro stations, and West Portal Station and western destinations for the K/T, L and M lines, according to MUNI spokesman Judson True said.

     "The most complicated part is making sure everyone is accounted for, and the people with the most serious injuries are taken care of and
    transported in a timely fashion," San Francisco fire Lt. Ken Smith said.

    Smith said 68 personnel from the San Francisco Fire Department responded, as well as 15 ambulances, seven fire engines, one fire truck and a number of battalion chiefs and other personnel.   

    True said the collision remains under investigation, and added that he did not know the speed of the L-Taraval train at the time of the
    crash.

    A deputy chief with the San Francisco fire department said the incident was one of the largest multiple casualty incidents in recent years in the city, but said emergency responded handled it by the book. 

    The Muni crash is the latest in a series of mass transit accidents nationwide in recent months.

    NBC Bay Area reported the crashes are leading to new concerns among federal officials over the safety of what are considered an aging transit systems.

    • Last month, a Metro train slammed into the back of another train near Washington, D.C. killing nine people. Investigators are looking into the possibility of faulty sensors on the tracks.
    • In May, nearly 50 people were hurt when one trolley car in Bboston crashed into another.  An investigation revealed the train's conductor was text messaging at the time of the crash.
    • Last year, 20 people were killed near Los Angeles when a commuter train slammed into a freight train.  An investigation revealed the train's conductor was also text messaging at the time of the crash.  There are also questions about whether the signals on the track, were working properly.