Wednesday News Roundup
Bart Car Mishap
A wire jammed into a cabinet door was to blame for a brand-new BART train car slowly crashing into a sand berm at a testing facility in Hayward on Friday afternoon, BART officials said today.
The cable was connected to testing equipment on board the first car of BART’s “Fleet of the Future” but shorted out when it was pinched in the cabinet door. The testing equipment was connected to the car’s auxiliary power, which shut down as designed because of the short, disabling the car’s friction brake system.
But since the testing equipment wouldn’t normally be on board the car, there was no mechanical failure of the car itself. Still, BART will likely remove the cabinet doors to prevent a similar problem from happening again.
BART’s chief maintenance and engineering officer Tamar Allen and Fleet of the Future project manager John Garnham elaborated on the cause of the crash at BART’s headquarters in Oakland today. The crash, at under 5 mph, happened at about 1:55 p.m. Friday at BART’s maintenance complex in Hayward.
The new train cars are slated to go into service by the end of this year and will completely replace BART’s current fleet by 2021. The first car arrived last month, two more are expected in June and several more are expected over the next few months, Garnham said.
For now, the car is going through an extensive period of testing to make sure that it is ready for passengers.
The testing is “an opportunity to learn things about the car… to ensure that every system works correctly,” Allen said.
While testing, BART anticipates problems will come up and hopes to solve them before the new cars go into service.
BART has been testing individual systems for the new cars for months and began testing in earnest once the new car arrived by truck from Plattsburgh, New York. Since the car did not mechanically fail and wasn’t damaged in the crash — some sand needed to be cleaned out of the mechanics and the wheels — Friday’s incident isn’t considered a major setback for the
“There was no failure of the vehicle itself. The vehicle performed as it was designed,” Allen said.
In fact, there was no operator failure either. According to BART officials, staff on board followed proper procedure.
After maintenance staff and engineers worked over the weekend downloading information off the test equipment and gathering information about the crash, investigators concluded it was the cable jammed in the cabinet door that was to blame.
The operators were being trained in how to use the new car and didn’t realize they had lost auxiliary power as they took it for a spin at 15 mph on the two-mile test track on Friday afternoon.
The car’s electric brakes worked as designed, but they needed the friction brakes — which rely on fluid pumped through a motor — to slow and stop it once the speed was reduced to 5 mph.
But the motor was connected to the auxiliary power, so it shut down, and the fluid pressure on the brakes depleted without it. But the sand berm worked as it was supposed to in stopping the slow-moving car, preventing any damage to it.
While the car is ok, the mishap has inspired BART to make some software improvements and changes to safety procedures to keep something like this from happening again, Garnham said. Once those are in place, testing on the tracks will resume.
BART officials remain optimistic that the new cars will work as designed and are enthusiastic that they will be a drastic improvement over the agency’s current fleet.
“They’re going to be great trains, they’re going to be state-of-the-art,” Garnham said.
At Least One Dead in Collision on Embarcadero
Police said at least one person has died in a two-vehicle collision this afternoon on The Embarcadero in San Francisco.
Police Officer Albie Esparza said on Twitter at 2:43 p.m. that the collision resulted in a fatality.
The collision was first reported at 12:09 p.m. on The Embarcadero at Bryant Street, San Francisco Fire Department spokesman Jonathan Baxter said.
An initial report said three people were injured, with two in critical condition and one in stable condition.
The northbound lanes of The Embarcadero remain closed this afternoon. Bryant Street traffic on the area is being diverted to southbound The Embarcadero, Esparza said.
San Francisco Municipal Railway service on the N-Judah, T-Third and E-Embarcadero lines could be affected, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.
Former Police Lieutenant Charged with Interfering with Rape Investigation Against Fellow Officer
Criminal charges have been filed against a former San Francisco police lieutenant who allegedly interfered with an investigation into sexual assault allegations against a fellow officer, District Attorney George Gascon said today.
Curtis Liu is the second officer to be criminally charged following an investigation into rape allegations made last August against former Officer Jason Lai. He is also among the four officers implicated in a series of racist and disturbing text messages exchanged between Lai, Liu and at least two other officers that became public this week.
According to prosecutors, after the sexual assault allegation was made against Lai on Aug. 7, 2015, Liu contacted Lai, discussed the allegations and confirmed that he was the person the victim was referring to.
Liu then allegedly lied to his subordinates and superior officers about contacting Lai and permitted the police report to be filed with the suspect listed as “unknown” when he knew the identity of the suspect.
“A willingness to cover up allegations of a crime as serious as rape is not an acceptable quality in any police officer,” Gascón said. “But the fact that such a void of principle was demonstrated by a leader makes this behavior that much more concerning.”
Liu, who has since retired from the force, is charged with one felony count of making a false statement in a police report, and two misdemeanor counts of delaying or obstructing a peace officer. No arraignment date has been set yet in his case, prosecutors said.
Investigators found there was insufficient evidence to charge Lai with sexual assault, but he was instead charged in March with two misdemeanor counts of unlawful possession of local criminal offender history information and four misdemeanor counts of misuse of confidential Department of Motor Vehicles information. The information leading to those charges was uncovered during the rape investigation.
The investigation also uncovered a series of text messages exchanged between Lai and other officers over a period of around 10 months that included racist and sexist language and derogatory references to blacks, Latinos, Indians, Muslims and gay and transgender people.
The messages, which were made public last month by Gascon, also include references to shooting protesters, describe a rape victim as an “idiot,” talk about wanting to “hook up” someone on false charges and describe a police report as a “story.”
Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who released the text of many of Lai’s messages this week, said the revelation had led his office to review 207 cases connected with the four officers for signs of possible bias.
Police Chief Greg Suhr said Tuesday that three of the four officers, including Lai and Liu, have left the department voluntarily while a fourth has been referred to the Police Commission for discipline and possible termination.
This is the second time in recent years that the department has faced a scandal because of text messages uncovered during a criminal investigation of an officer.
A previous set of racist text messages exchanged among a group of officers in 2011 and 2012 were uncovered during a federal investigation into allegations of theft against one officer and were made public in March 2015.
In that case, Suhr ultimately moved to fire seven officers in connection with those messages, but the terminations were overturned in December after a judge found the department had waited too long to act.