NTSB Cites Poor Design in L.A. Railway
Aug. 06, 2003
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Poor design, construction and oversight caused an accident that killed a one person and injured seven others on a historic downtown railway in 2001, federal investigators said Tuesday.
A report by the National Transportation Safety Board said emergency brakes were not functioning when a car on the Angels Flight railway rolled downhill and crashed into another car.
The accident killed Leon Praport, 83, a Holocaust survivor from Old Bridge, N.J. His wife and six others were hurt.
Federal investigators said the gear hub on one car failed, causing a cable to unravel. The railway's emergency brakes were not working at the time.
The NTSB concluded that the components of the drive system were not designed to handle the stresses of the railway, which hauled cars 300 feet up a steep grade. Daily brake tests placed additional stress on the system and hastened damage, investigators said.
Investigators also said the runaway car could have been stopped if the railway had working track brakes or a safety cable. They faulted regulators for failing to ensure that the system met safety standards.
The city's Community Redevelopment Agency, which owns the railway, and the state's Public Utilities Commission did not address unresolved safety issues before the accident, according to the report.
The NTSB recommended that Angels Flight be redesigned to prevent further accidents.
Christopher Bisgaard, an attorney for the city agency, said officials did not know about the safety problems before the accident. ``From the day of the accident, they've stepped up and tried to resolve the issues.''
The railway has been closed indefinitely but Bisgaard said it will reopen. It will take about $1.5 million to replace the cars and the operating system.
Angels Flight opened on New Year's Eve 1901 to carry people up and down Bunker Hill, which at the time was topped with mansions. It was removed in 1969, but was restored and reopened in 1996 near its original location. Riders paid a penny in 1901; the fee has climbed to 25 cents.
Bisgaard said most of the lawsuits filed by accident victims have been settled. The Praport family received about $2 million.