By Sasha Lekach and Jeff Shuttleworth Bay City News Service
BART service is getting back to normal after a train experienced a brake failure and became disabled in the Berkeley Hills tunnel this morning, Wednesday, in an incident that sent nine passengers to hospitals.
The incident started around 8:20 a.m. when a parking brake deployed in error on a train bound for San Francisco International Airport on the Pittsburg-Bay Point line, according to BART spokesman Jim Allison.
The train became disabled, blocking the tracks, and a "brake dust" filled some of the cars, BART spokeswoman Luna Salaver said.
"There was absolutely no fire on the train," Salaver said.
There were 600 to 700 passengers on the train at the time, and they were in the Berkeley Hills tunnel until the mechanical issues were resolved and the train began moving again about an hour later, Allison said.
"Rescue trains" had initially been deployed to assist the stranded passengers, but were canceled after a technician got the disabled train to move on its own, according to Allison.
Shortly after 9:30 a.m., the train arrived at the Rockridge station, where Oakland firefighters assisted passengers who had requested medical attention, Allison said.
Oakland fire Battalion Chief Melinda Drayton said medical crews treated 11 passengers at the station. Nine of those people were taken to hospitals.
Two of the nine were having difficulty breathing, she said. One passenger was semi-conscious when taken off the train, Drayton said.
Passenger Angela Moore, 32, of Pittsburg, had gotten on the train around 7:45 a.m. at the Pittsburg-Bay Point station.
She was headed to the 12th Street station in Oakland but when the train went into the tunnel it stopped. She said her train car, which was in the middle of the train, smelled like smoke.
The train sat for about a long time in the tunnel.
"I wanted it to be over," she said.
A train operator came to her car and told passengers to stay calm, and told those affected by the smoky conditions to move to cars closer to the front or back, she said.
Once at the Rockridge station, she was evaluated by Oakland fire medical personnel. They offered to take her to the hospital after she said she wasn't feeling well, but she declined.
Instead, as of 10:30 a.m., she was waiting for her husband to pick her up at Rockridge and take her to her own doctor. She said her throat feels scratchy and it feels like she needs to cough. She also has a headache, she said.
The Orinda and Rockridge stations were closed while the train was stuck in the tunnel, and crowds of commuters stood outside the stations waiting to take BART to work.
An employee at the Cactus Taqueria on College Avenue across the street from the Rockridge station said the station's entrances were blocked by paramedics and firefighters.
She said there were groups of people waiting on the sidewalk.
As of 10:45 a.m., trains were running at reduced speeds between the Rockridge and Orinda stations, and passengers were advised to expect 15-minute delays on the Pittsburg-Bay Point line, Jim Allison said.
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