BART train derails, catches fire in East Bay — several passengers injured


Crews work near derailed BART cars on the eastbound tracks between the Orinda and Lafayette stations outside Orinda Station on Monday. The derailment began shortly after 9 a.m. when two BART cars derailed and caught fire. 

Crews work near derailed BART cars on the eastbound tracks between the Orinda and Lafayette stations outside Orinda Station on Monday. The derailment began shortly after 9 a.m. when two BART cars derailed and caught fire. 

Brontë Wittpenn/The Chronicle

A BART train caught fire after it derailed near Orinda Station on Monday morning, injuring several people and leading to the evacuation of all cars and a partial service shutdown.

The train had just left Orinda for Lafayette shortly after 9 a.m. when “it appears the front two cars derailed,” BART spokesperson Jim Allison told reporters at the Orinda Station. Two cars reportedly caught fire, he said. Passengers were evacuated, and Orinda and Layafette fire crews arrived at the scene and extinguished the blaze.

Several passengers were transported to local hospitals with minor injuries, Allison said, although the total number was unclear. The rest of the passengers walked back to Orinda Station. It was uncertain how many people were on the train.

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Service was discontinued on the Yellow Line between Rockridge and Walnut Creek in both directions. BART officials said the Orinda Station would be closed for the rest of the day and recommended passengers seek alternative means of transportation.

A BART train caught fire after it derailed near Orinda Station on Monday morning, leading to the evacuation of all cars and a closure of two stations.German Reyes

Some passengers were still at the station two hours after the incident, wrapped in gray blankets distributed by fire crews. 

Among them was Enrique Gonzalez, 53, who said he was in the car that caught fire. 

Gonzalez said he was asleep while riding in a car with about a dozen others when the operator announced she had to get off and “manually switch something.” After a delay of about 20 minutes, the train started moving, and he said he heard a “few loud pops” and “saw smoke billowing out in between cars” — and then saw the fire erupt.

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“I was sitting right there at the window and saw the flames shoot up,” he said.

Video he took at the scene shows flames coming up from under the car and reaching the top of the train.

Passengers opened the door and “we jumped out,” he said. Late Monday morning, he was still trying to figure out another way to get home.

While the transit system was carrying fewer passengers than usual on New Year’s Day, the disruption in service was likely to affect tens of thousands of people, Allison said. “It’s certainly unfortunate people are stranded on a holiday like this,” he said. 

Officials had not determined when service on the affected line would be restored, Allison said. Before that can happen, the train must be removed from the tracks and the rail must be inspected.

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By midafternoon, officials were preparing to get a crane to the site to lift the car, which required closing one of the Caldecott bores eastbound to get it there and then at least six hours to get the car back on the track and for service to be restored, Allison said, although it could be significantly longer.

 It was possible that trains might not be running along the affected route in time for the Tuesday morning commute, he said.

In the meantime, BART officials said, the train operator was drug-tested and interviewed, per protocol, and would be on administrative leave. In addition, the California Public Utilities Commission, the designated state investigative agency, had been at the scene to gather information.

Four hours after the incident, BART announced AC Transit would provide a bus bridge between the Rockridge and Walnut Creek stations, with stops at Orinda and Lafayette.

Enrique Gonzalez, 53, said he was a passenger on the BART car that caught fire after a derailment Monday.

Enrique Gonzalez, 53, said he was a passenger on the BART car that caught fire after a derailment Monday.

Jill Tucker / The Chronicle

Early indications were that the derailment happened at an interlocking, the most complicated piece of track, where trains can switch from one track to another, Allison said.

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It was unclear how fast the train was going, but Allison said that based on what he saw at the scene, the lead car ended up on one track, with the second car at a 45-degree angle, its wheels 4 to 6 inches off the ground. The remaining six cars were lined up on the other track.

Normally, interlocking are controlled remotely, but it’s “not unusual” for train operators to get off and move them manually, Allison said.

He said the operator was asked to get off the train and manually “align the route” at the the interlocking and then got back on board before moving forward on manual control. That’s when the derailment occurred. It’s unclear at this point what happened, Allison said.

There was no initial indication of foul play, and no evidence showed that the track was damaged before the incident, Allison said. Friction from metal wheels on rails can create a spark and set debris on fire, he said, but there was no indication yet of what was burning under the train.

Allison said the fiberglass cover that protects the electrified third rail appeared to be damaged, and a crane might be needed to remove the cars from the track.

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That last time a BART train derailed was in June 2022 near Concord, when excessive heat caused the track to misalign.

Passenger Carmen Barrie, 73, of San Leandro said she was riding the train en route to Concord when the New Year’s Day derailment occurred.

Initially, she said, the train stopped between Orinda and Lafayette for about 15 minutes. “They said there was an equipment problem,” she said. The train then “moved forward maybe a foot or two, stopped again, and then it went backward.”

Then the operator ran through the train but didn’t say anything, ran back again, and then ultimately pressed the doors open, she said. The passengers had to jump about 5 feet down to the track to exit the train. There was no sense that there was an emergency until passengers disembarked and “people were running from the front of the train saying there was a fire,” she said. 

“We had no word” that was happening, Barrie said. “I didn’t know how bad it was until I was off the train and then I saw smoke from the train.”



This article was originally published by a www.sfchronicle.com . Read the Original article here. .