Streetcar wreck may cost $85K in claims 

A Muni accident in which a sport utility vehicle was sandwiched between two streetcars has already generated three injury claims against The City that could total $85,000.

San Francisco resident Chris Ward was driving his Nissan Pathfinder on Market Street on Aug. 3 when he was abruptly rear-ended by an F-Market/Wharves historic streetcar. The impact rammed the vehicle into another streetcar parked at the Noe Street intersection.

The operator, Lonny Butler, of the streetcar that rear-ended Ward’s car was “distracted by a customer who approached him” at the time of the crash, according to statements from Muni chief Nathaniel Ford following the accident.

Ward and five other people were injured, including Gene Cain and Andrew Sartorius, who were both traveling on the F-line.

Ward is seeking $35,000 to reimburse his insurance companies for his Pathfinder, according to his claim.

Citing pain and injuries, Cain and Sartorius have filed two separate claims against San Francisco for damages of up to $25,000, although an exact dollar amount wasn’t specified in either filing.

In their claims, Sartorius and Cain both said that Butler “was not paying attention to what was in front of him.”

Due to employee privacy issues, Muni spokesman Judson True couldn’t comment on any potential disciplinary measures Butler might face as a result of the accident, but he did say that “at this time, the operator is on leave.”

The streetcar accident happened a little more than two weeks after two Muni light-rail vehicles were involved in an accident at the West Portal station. That incident, which injured 47 people, occurred after Muni operator Henry Gray passed out while driving an
L-Taraval train, causing it to smash into another train that was stopped at the station.

Both accidents prompted Ford to declare that Muni was committed to providing safe service, although he conceded that the crashes were part of a “frustrating few weeks.”

At least seven people have filed claims against The City for the West Portal crash, but only one has issued a specific dollar amount for damages. That filing was for less than $200. The rest of the claimants have said they’re still calculating the extent of their setbacks, according to city documents.

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Will Reisman

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