Muni Official: ‘Deep Concern' About Operator Not Spotting Woman Caught in Train Door

A top Muni official said Thursday that she had a "deep concern" that the operator of one of its new fleet cars started to leave the station without noticing a woman whose fingers were caught in the door.

According to Muni’s acting transit director, Julie Kirschbaum, the Friday incident involved a woman getting her fingers stuck as she rushed up and tried to get on the train. The woman was then briefly dragged and fell onto the track section at the Embarcadero Station. Ultimately she had to treated briefly, at a nearby hospital.

Sources who have reviewed video of the incident say the woman told a station official her hand was caught. That agent then shouted for the driver to stop, but the vehicle started moving anyway.

Kirschbaum acknowledged the driver failed to notice the woman.

"We take that as a deep concern," she said.

The incident is one of two documented cases of people getting fingers caught in Muni doors. The other incident happened in December.

Kirschbaum stressed that while the new fleet’s doors were deemed safe by state regulators, the plan is to retrofit all the trains with additional sensors to make them safer.

Currently, most of the new cars have sensors only on the right-hand side while the system’s old cars have sensors on the left-hand side of the door.

The new cars, made by Siemens, also do not have side-view mirrors, meaning operators must rely only on video cameras to make sure no one is caught in the door.

Kirschbaum said the agency also continues to investigate why two shear pins have snapped on the new trains. The pins are described as a fail-safe devices to diffuse the force of accidents when two or more train cars are connected.

The discovery of the first failure occurred Thursday afternoon on a two car train on the N-Judah line – after it had finished its daily service.

The driver reportedly heard a popping noise and the train’s computer diagnostics indicated it had detected a problem.

That triggered inspections that uncovered a second broken pin on a car that was uncoupled in a Muni yard.

All the spare pins have been sent out for metallurgical and chemical analysis, she said, adding that it is still not clear what caused the failures. In the meantime, the new cars are being run only as single car trains on the N-Judah line.

The cause of the failures is puzzling, she says.

"We do have a system that has a lot of tight turns and difficult terrain," Kirschbaum said, "but the vehicle was designed specifically for our system, so this is something we need to understand better and then we will fix it and proceed."

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