Silver Chips Online

Metro Red Line crash kills nine and injures dozens

Fenty, Metro officials describe crash as the deadliest in Metro history

By Deepa Chellappa, Online Editor-in-Chief and David Tao, Online Editor-in-Chief
June 22, 2009
This is not original reporting. All information has been compiled from the Washington Post, the Gazette and WTOP News. Silver Chips Online posts this news summary to provide readers with a forum for discussion.

Two six-car Red Line Metro trains collided at 5 p.m. on Monday evening at the height of rush hour, resulting in nine fatalities, including a female train operator. At least 100 passengers sustained injuries in what transportation officials reported as the deadliest accident in Metro's 33-year history.

Rescue workers rush to clear passengers from the scene of the crash. <i>Picture courtesy of the Washington Post.</i>
Rescue workers rush to clear passengers from the scene of the crash. Picture courtesy of the Washington Post.
The crash occurred between the Takoma Park and Fort Totten stations, when a train heading toward the Shady Grove station slammed into another train from behind. Metro officials have not determined the cause of the collision and are not likely to know the cause for several days as the investigation unfolds, according to the Metro web site.

Metro General Manager John Catoe addressed the press shortly after the crash occurred and said that officials' first action would be to search for any passengers remaining on the train. "Right now, we're focusing on getting people out of the train," he said. "This is an incredibly tragic event. We will get to the bottom and find out what happened."

Catoe declined to answer repeated questions about whether the striking train was being operated manually, stating that Metro policy is to operate trains in automatic mode during peak hours. According to the Washington Post, investigations will likely focus on a failure of Metro's computerized signal system, which is designed to prevent trains from coming close enough to collide. Metro has had trouble with the system in recent years and replaced all 20,000 trackside relays in 2000 after discovering that a small portion were not operating correctly, according to the Post. Authorities have scheduled an additional news conference for 8 a.m. on Tuesday.

According to the Post, Monday's crash was the third serious Metro incident since 1996, when a Red Line train overshot the Shady Grove platform on an icy night and hit another train, killing the operator. Another collision occurred in 2004 at the Woodley Park/Zoo-Adams Morgan Metrorail station, resulting in minor injuries but no fatalities.

Metro officials recommend that commuters avoid the Red Line on Tuesday and caution passengers to expect significant delays as the area of track involved in the accident will remain closed. Trains will run back and forth between the Glenmont and Silver Spring Metrorail stations and between the Shady Grove and Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood Metrorail stations. All trains will be six- and eight-car trains on the Red Line and they will be running about 8 - 10 minutes apart.

The Brookland-CUA, Fort Totten and Takoma Metrorail stations will be closed to Red Line traffic on Tuesday and MARCís Brunswick Line service will be suspended due to the proximity of its tracks to the accident scene. Free Metrobus shuttles will be available to take customers around the incident between the Silver Spring, Fort Totten, Brookland-CUA, Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood and Georgia Avenue-Petworth Metrorail stations.

The District has also opened a call line - 202-727-9099 - for families and concerned citizens, according to the Gazette.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 3:10 p.m. on June 23 to reflect the current death toll of nine passengers.

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/9272