DC Metro confirms earlier reports of 9 dead


The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Metro transit officials are confirming an earlier report that nine people were killed in a train collision.

Metro spokeswoman Candace Smith says four bodies were recovered from the wreckage Monday after the rush-hour crash. Five more were removed Tuesday.

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez MonsivaisDC Fire and Emergency workers at the site.

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
DC Fire and Emergency workers at the site.

Smith says two men and seven women were killed, including the operator of the train that barreled into a stopped train. All the victims were adults.

Mayor Adrian Fenty said at an earlier news conference that seven people had died and he hoped the death toll would not increase.

The accident was the worst in the 33-year history of the Metrorail system.

The subway train that plowed into another in the nation's capital, was part of an aging fleet that federal officials had sought to phase out because of safety concerns, an investigator said Tuesday.

But the Metrorail transit system kept the old trains kept running despite warnings in 2006, said Debbie Hersman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

The rush-hour crash sent more than 70 people to hospitals. The three-decades-old Metro system, the pride of the District of Colombia tourism industry, has shuttled tourists and commuters from Washington to Maryland and Virginia suburbs.

Mayor Adrian Fenty announced Tuesday that seven had died in the crash. Earlier, the District of Columbia Fire Department Web site announced that three bodies had been found in addition to the six fatalities reported Monday.

Fenty said two victims were hospitalized in critical condition.

Hersman said investigators expect to recover recorders from the train that was struck. The recorders could provide valuable information that might help determine why the crash occurred.

The train that triggered the collision was part of an old fleet that was not equipped with the devices, Hersman said.

She told The Associated Press that the NTSB had warned of safety problems and recommended the old fleet be phased out or retrofitted to make it better withstand a crash. Neither was done, she said, which the NTSB considered "unacceptable."

The crash was the worst in the history of Metrorail.

Maya Maroto recalled hearing the sound of "metal on metal" as the train she was riding rear-ended another one.

"We were going full speed — I didn't hear any breaking. Everything was just going normally. Then there was a very loud impact. We all fell out of our seats. Then the train filled up with smoke. I was coughing," the 31-year-old said.

Maroto, of Burtonsville, Md., said there was confusion after the impact because no announcements were immediately made. She said some passengers wanted to climb out, but others were afraid of being electrocuted by a rail.

Tijuana Cox, 21, was in the train that was hit. She had her sprained arm in a sling Tuesday.

"Everybody just went forward and came back," with people's knees hitting the seats in front of them, said Cox, of Lanham, Md.

The only other fatal crash in the Metro subway system occurred Jan. 13, 1982, when three people died as a result of a derailment. That was a day of disaster in the capital: Shortly before the subway crash, an Air Florida plane slammed into the 14th Street Bridge immediately after takeoff from Washington National Airport. The plane crash, during a severe snowstorm, killed 78 people.

In January 2007, a subway train derailed in downtown Washington, sending 20 people to the hospital and prompting the rescue of 60 others from the tunnel. In November 2006, two Metro track workers were struck and killed by an out-of-service train. An investigation found that the train operator failed to follow safety procedures. Another Metro worker was struck and killed in May 2006. 

 

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