Members of a San Francisco church popular with LGBTs are working to help the family of a homeless man who was apparently crushed to death by a BART elevator in March.
Media outlets have indicated that David Thomas, 42, was lying on top of an elevator at the mass transit system’s Montgomery Street station March 10 when someone boarded and started riding the elevator. That person soon “heard a crunching sound and a man yelping before the elevator stopped,” Bay City News reported. Thomas was found dead in the elevator shaft, according to the news service.
Ken Jones, a gay City of Refuge United Church of Christ deacon and a member of BART’s Citizen Review Board, said in an email today (Wednesday, April 17) that church members want to raise $1,000 to help Thomas’s family pay for funeral expenses. The family hopes to bury Thomas Saturday, April 27. Thomas wasn’t a member of the church, Jones said.
Valerie Blackmore, Thomas’s sister, said in a phone interview that her brother, who had two young children, wasn’t gay, but he was “a free spirit” who “loved San Francisco.” He sometimes crashed on family member’s couches, Blackmore, 47, of Antioch, said, but “he would only stay so long.”
“San Francisco is very free,” Blackmore said of her brother’s fondness for the city. “You can be who you are.”
She also expressed sympathy for the man who boarded the elevator, not knowing her brother was on top of it.
“I would like him to know my prayers are with him,” she said. “… It was not his fault.”
Jones said of the fundraising effort, “BART can not pay because it could seem they were accepting ‘responsibility’ for his death.” A BART spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.
[Updated Thursday, April 18]: BART spokesman Jim Allison noted the transit system is supported by ticket sales and tax revenue, and there’s a question about whether helping with funeral costs would be “an appropriate use of public funds.”
Allison said BART often gets requests for assistance from community organizations, and “it’s just not appropriate to pick and choose where we spend the taxpayers’ money.” He added that Thomas’s death is “obviously a tragedy, but there’s a pretty complex legal aspect to it.” [End update]
Donors may send checks to Alta Vista Cremation and Funeral Services, 4795 Blum Road, Pacheco, California, 94553. Alta Vista’s phone number is (925) 228-1500.
A funeral home employee said checks may be made payable to Alta Vista, with “David Thomas” written on the memo line.
Even donations of $10 are helpful, Jones said. He asked that people let him know how much they’ve contributed. Jones’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.