State investigating injury of woman whose hand got stuck in Muni train door

State regulators are investigating an incident in which a Muni train door closed on a woman’s hand, causing her to tumble onto the tracks.

The California Public Utilities Commission confirmed Friday that it is reviewing the mishap, putting pressure on Muni to fix two recent safety issues with its new Siemens rail cars. Officials were in the process of upgrading the fleet when the woman fell, shaking public trust at a crucial moment for Muni — for months, the agency has struggled to improve service, stop major breakdowns and get more trains on the street.

The woman, whose name has not been released, got caught in one of the rear doors of an N-Judah train she was trying to board at about 2:30 p.m. on April 12. The woman was unable to extricate herself as the train departed the station, and she ran along with it for several feet before pulling her hand from the door and falling onto the tracks, said San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency spokesman Paul Rose.

“She was transported to San Francisco General Hospital in serious condition,” said San Francisco Fire Department spokesman Jonathan Baxter.

A source within Muni who was not authorized to speak on the record said the new Siemens trains use cameras instead of rearview mirrors, and the placement of the cameras leave large blind spots that obstruct drivers’ view of certain doors.

Most of the trains have a sensor in each doorway and on the outer flap of each door to detect objects, but only seven of them have an additional sensor in the door jamb.

“It’s important to remind people not to stick their hand in the door right before it closes,” Rose said. “Not only can you delay the train, but you can also hurt yourself.

“Regardless, this was a terrible event, and we are doing a full investigation.”

“It’s sad because the agency was informed by operators and supervisors many times that the sensitive edges of the doors are not that sensitive,” said Roger Marenco, president of the Transport Workers Union.

He said he’s aware of half a dozen incidents in the past six months in which passengers got caught in doors.

Muni plans to have 68 new Siemens trains in service by this summer, and 25 to 35 are currently in service on any given day. Ultimately, the agency is replacing 151 Breda trains.

“This is obviously really horrific,” said Rachel Hyden, head of the San Francisco Transit Riders advocacy group.

“We understand that Muni is under a lot of pressure from the city and from riders to get these vehicles into service,” she added. “But this is way too serious to rush a procurement.”

Rose said the SFMTA, which runs Muni and other transit services throughout the city, is planning to install additional sensors on the rest of its new fleet, which has been dogged by other safety issues. Recently a shear pin broke on one of the couplers connecting two cars together on an N-Judah.

Inspectors found a second broken shear pin on another train when they perused the rest of the fleet, Rose said.

“Out of an abundance of caution we decided not to couple trains until we have an understanding of the failures,” he said. Muni has reduced all the new Siemens trains to one car, and is running them on lines like the J-Church, which uses one-car trains.

Rose said that all the Siemens cars have passed several safety tests and been certified by the state Public Utilities Commission.

“Even though they meet all the technical requirements and regulations, we’re always working to take advantage of technology development,” he said. “We’re continuing to make improvements to the design.”

Rachel Swan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @rachelswan

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