The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

L.A. Angels Flight crash:
Safety takes a holiday

Mar 5, 2001

On February 1 in the middle of lunch hour, the cable on the historic Angels Flight cable car in downtown Los Angeles accidentally unravelled, sending the cable car hurtling out of control down a steep track and crashing into the other cable car at the bottom of the hill. One person, 83yearold Leon Praport, a survivor of the Holocaust who was visiting the city, was killed. His wife was severely injured, along with six others.

Angels Flight had been reconstructed back in 1996, both as a tourist attraction and to rejoin two parts of the city that are divided by a hill. The initial plans for the cable car included a braking system on the cars that could have decelerated the car after the cable unravelled and have minimized the force of impact. But the city agency that oversaw the reconstruction quietly allowed the construction company to leave the braking system off the car at the last minute saving money and increasing profits.

This lack of safety was then compounded by the fact that the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the state agency that oversees the running of trains and subways, never conducted a formal safety inspection of Angels Flight. Only once since 1996 did an inspector take even an informal and cursory look around. And only once did the PUC ask to see the Angels Flight records in March 1997. No records were offered –but there was no followup.

The fatal accident on February 1 was a logical outcome of the extreme neglect of all parties concerned, private and government. It also reveals the general lack of concern for safety in all public transport at all levels, both private and governmental.