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Two light-rail trains crash in San Francisco, injuring 44

Both trains were full when the crash occurred near the West Portal shopping district. Three people were seriously injured and no deaths have been reported.

July 19, 2009|From Times Staff And Wire Reports

Forty-four people were reportedly injured Saturday in a crash involving two light-rail trains at a boarding platform on San Francisco's west side.

Authorities said three people were severely injured in the 2:30 p.m. crash as an L Line train rear-ended a K Line train at the West Portal Station. A San Francisco Police Department spokesman said none of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening.

Both trains were operated by the San Francisco Municipal Railway, or Muni, system.

Witnesses said the westbound L train had just emerged from a tunnel that connects the downtown area with the city's western neighborhoods when it struck the second train. Both trains were fully loaded with passengers.

Shin San, 15, told the Associated Press that her sister, Celene, was on the L train headed for the Taraval district when it hit the Ingleside-bound K train.

"She said she was on the L and heard a boom. She saw glass windows shattered and a guy got his ear cut," Shin said, adding that her sister was not seriously injured.

After the crash, witnesses said more than a dozen people, some of whom had bloodied heads, sat on benches along the boarding platform. One man was yelling, "Get out, get out," and others were crying, "Oh no, oh no."

Most of the passengers on the lines, which bustle with shoppers on Saturday afternoons, were adults. Rescue workers set up a triage system to isolate the most severely injured, bandaging their heads and immobilizing their necks on stretchers before carting them to rescue vehicles.

"We thought a bomb went off," said Mike Burke, a San Francisco banker who lives near the crash site and was walking past the station with his wife, Linda, when the crash occurred.

"Lots of people were still sitting in their seats with their heads thrown back, stunned," Linda Burke said. She also saw people on the platform crying.

Dan Dudem, an unemployed mechanic who lives in the neighborhood, said he had just parked his motorcycle around the corner from the transit station when he heard the crash and saw buildings shaking.

"Everyone ran out of the stores to see what happened," he said. "I saw the front of the car crumpled."

Pat Gardner, a deputy chief with the San Francisco Fire Department, said 20 people suffered moderate injuries. He described 21 others as "the walking wounded."

He said everyone who was injured remained conscious. The cause of the crash, which occurred at one end of San Francisco's vibrant West Portal shopping district, was under investigation.

A Muni spokesman said investigators will look at "mechanical and human issues."

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