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Calif. Legislative Hearing To Probe Transit Deaths

SAN FRANCISCO — California lawmakers are convening to investigate the deaths of two Bay Area Rapid Transit track inspectors who were struck by a train while BART's regular train operators and maintenance workers were on strike.

The state Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment was scheduled to convene Thursday in San Francisco for a two-hour hearing.

Chairman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina, has said the goal is to "get to the bottom" of the fatal accident that killed Christopher Sheppard, 58, and Laurence Daniels, 66.

San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting, a Democrat, requested the hearing.

Primo Castro, a spokesman for Hernandez, said lawmakers will hear from three panels. The first consists of enforcement and regulatory officials like Paul King of the state Office of Rail Safety. Union officials will make up a second panel that includes Des Patten, president of Service Employees International Union Local 1021. SEIU was one of the two unions that shutdown BART for four days in October by striking over stalled contract talks.

Both unions approved a new four-year contract last week. BART's board of directors still needs to vote on the deal at its next meeting, which the agency said would happen "soon."

Jeff Lau, BART's chief safety officer, and other transit agency officials will be the final panel of the day.

"The committee is focusing on the reason why this accident and others like it occurred," Castro said. "And the committee wants to hear what, if anything, BART is planning to do differently."

BART officials announced after the Oct. 19 accident that trains are now required to slow down or stop when they approach work zones.

Before the change, workers on the tracks were responsible for their own safety.

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