SF Woman Suffers Fatal Injuries In BART Accident
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a report on February 28, 2023, regarding the unfortunate dragging death of a passenger that occurred at BART’s Powell Street station. The NTSB investigation revealed that the incident resulted from the passenger’s dog’s leash becoming trapped in the train car’s doors as they closed shut. The dim lighting conditions at the station played a significant role in reducing the conspicuity of passenger activities toward the far end of the platform, as stated in the report. This resulted in the train operator not being able to observe the passenger struggling with the railcar doors, despite having performed the mandatory “look-back procedure” before the train departed the San Francisco station.
The incident, which occurred on September 13, 2021, caused a 41-year-old San Francisco woman to suffer fatal injuries as she was dragged along the platform and hit the gate at its end. The woman had boarded the ninth car of a Dublin-bound train with her leashed dog at 3:13 p.m. and clipped the leash to her backpack. She then stepped back out of the car, apparently waving to someone on the platform, leaving her dog inside. When the doors closed on the leash and the train began moving, the woman tried unsuccessfully to pull the doors open and then to detach the leash from her bag. However, she was unable to do so, and an autopsy later determined that the cause of her death was multiple blunt-force injuries.
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The transportation agency’s report clarified that the train operator had tested negative for drugs or alcohol and that neither the operator nor the passenger was using a phone at the time of the accident. Additionally, the report indicated that the railcar doors were functioning properly, and the dog’s leash was too narrow to trigger the doors to reopen. Postmortem tests of the passenger’s blood did detect methamphetamine, cocaine, and fentanyl. However, investigators found no clear evidence that impairment played a role in the accident’s circumstances.
It is noteworthy that BART allows leashed or harnessed service dogs on its trains, while all other animals, including non-service dogs, must be in carriers. The report does not address whether the dog in this incident was a service animal. After the train accident, BART made significant improvements to the station, including upgrading platform lighting and painting the walls a brighter color to improve operator visibility.
Unfortunately, this incident is not an isolated one. A similar incident occurred last month at a Metro station in a Washington, D.C. suburb, where a man on the platform was dragged by his dog’s leash after the doors closed with the animal remaining on the train car. In another incident that occurred at the Powell Street station in February 2021, BART was ordered to pay $9.15 million to a man whose leg was severed when he was dragged by a train. The lawsuit alleged that the train’s operator disregarded an alert that something was trapped in the door.
While the transportation agency’s report revealed that the train operator and the passenger were not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and the railcar doors were working correctly, the tragic incident highlights the need for improved safety measures on public transportation. If you or a loved one has been involved in a similar accident or suffered from injuries due to negligence on public transportation, do not hesitate to contact Scranton Law Firm for help with your accident case. Let us work together to hold those responsible accountable and seek the justice you deserve.