OAKLAND -- Eleven commuters required medical treatment Wednesday morning after a dusty substance filled BART train cars inside a tunnel between the Orinda and Rockridge stations, authorities said.
The train stopped when an electrical short caused a parking brake to deploy at about 8:22 a.m., trapping 600 to 700 passengers inside the Berkeley hills tunnel for more than an hour, according to BART. Nine people were taken away in ambulances and an additional two went to a hospital by other means of transportation, Oakland Fire Battalion Chief Melinda Drayton said.
None of the injuries were life-threatening, Drayton said.
A technician eventually released the brake to get the train running on its own, and it finally reached the Rockridge station at 9:34 a.m., BART spokesman Jim Allison said. Passengers on the train were evacuated when it arrived at the Rockridge platform after a stressful hour inside the tunnel.
Michael Pascual, 29, of Concord, said BART made an announcement for any nurses and doctors aboard to come to the front of the train. Some people inside the trains were praying, he said.
"Everybody was trying to stay calm," said Kaylee Adams, of Walnut Creek. "We were trying to help each other out. It was scary. I was in the first car, and it was really stinky."
The train was traveling at about 70 mph when, for unknown reasons, an electrical short caused the parking brake on one of the cars to activate, according to BART.Friction from the brake caused a "smoky dust" to enter train cars through a vent that usually allows fresh air inside, Allison said. BART is investigating what caused the short and will move the train to a maintenance yard Thursday for inspection, said spokeswoman Alicia Trost.
Train service was stopped in both directions on the Pittsburg-Bay Point line until after 10 a.m., and residual delays lasted throughout the morning. BART trains began running normally through the tunnel at 11:25 a.m., Allison said.
BART officials said no fire ever broke out on the train, and Drayton said the substance that filled the cars was dust, not smoke. Those who went to the hospital were treated for respiratory issues similar to smoke inhalation caused by the dust.
The doors to the train automatically locked during the emergency. Some passengers reportedly tried to break windows to receive air, though Allison said officials received no reports of people trying to get off the train by themselves.
Still, several passengers complained about the communication provided by BART during the emergency.
"They asked everybody to move to the front car from the back car, and then 10 minutes later, they had everybody go back the other way," said Valentina Cardoza, of Concord, a passenger on the train. "Just a lack of communication. It didn't seem like they knew what to do or how they were going to handle it. ... There was very little information for the passengers."
Cardoza said the train entered the Berkeley hills tunnel and stopped after about a mile. She said the lights went off when the train stopped and that several passengers on board panicked.
"Initially, the communication was a bit sketchy," he said. "But as more information became available, our train operator went from car to car to deliver instructions."
Service on the other BART lines was not affected, Allison said.
Staff photographer Jane Tyska and staff writer David DeBolt contributed to this story.