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DC Metro Crash Kills 9, Injures More than 70

Jun 23, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

At least 9 are dead following a rear-end crash of two Washington, DC Metro subway trains yesterday.  The Metro crash, which occurred during rush hour, also injured  more than 70 people, United Press International (UPI) is reporting.

Officials are calling yesterday's Metro crash the worst in the system's 33 year history.  The collision occurred when one train stopped short of the Fort Totten station - near the Maryland border - and was rammed from behind from the second train, UPI said.  The second train  came to rest on top of the first - something that indicates it was traveling at a high rate of speed.  The Los Angeles Times reported that the crash occurred around 5:00 p.m. on the Metro's Red Line, one of its busiest routes.

More than 200 emergency workers responded to the scene, where they had to work to release trapped commuters.   Six people - including the operator of the second train - were declared dead shortly after the crash.  The additional three bodies were discovered late last night, the Los Angeles Times said. In addition, 76 people were treated at the scene.  Some were sent to area hospitals, six with critical injuries.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is on the scene, and has  assigned a railroad investigator and two specialists from its office of transportation disaster assistance to the incident, the Times said.  The investigation will likely focus on the Metro's computerized signal system, which is supposed to keep trains from getting too close to one another, and operator error.

According to a report in the Baltimore Sun, the NTSB has been a "persistent critic" of the Metro system for the last quarter century. After other incidents, the agency has criticized Metro for ignoring warnings from front-line managers, disregarding NTSB recommendations and failing to learn from its mistakes.  

For instance, according to the Sun, after a fatal crash in 1996, the NTSB recommended that Metro reinforce its rail cars' structure to prevent "telescoping" during a crash.  But for 8 years, Metro resisted the move, complaining it would be too expensive.  The Metro system is not required to follow NTSB recommendations, the Sun said.

The NTSB investigation of the Metro crash could take years to complete, but it may issue a preliminary report sooner than that, the Sun said.

In the Metro's 33-year history, there have been at least four other fatal accidents that have  killed a total of seven people.


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