Yesterday, Monday, June 22, 2009, at 4:30 p.m. there was a fatal Metrorail train crash on the Red Line track near the Fort Totten station. There are nine dead and 76 injured, making it the worst crash in Metro history. Survivors will be scarred by both physical injuries and emotional trauma from the terrible things they saw during and after the accident.
My dad was on the Red Line at 4 p.m. going towards Fort Totten, but 30 minutes before the accident, realized he was going the wrong way, got off the train and switched to a Red Line train going the opposite direction (towards Shady Grove). He is one of the lucky ones who escaped a fatal accident that, according to news sources, could have been prevented if proper safety precautions were taken.
Metro General Manager John Catoe that a fatal mass transit accident like this is “very rare.” This kind of collision is supposed to be impossible since are equipped with both manual and computer-operated systems.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says the reason this crash happened was because the train was an older 1000 series—and not up to date per NTSB safety recommendations. The 1000 series was recommended to be updated by federal regulators three years ago, but since the Metrorail system does not have to take the advice of the NTSB, no action was taken. Metro simply decided it would be too expensive to strengthen their rail cars.
For over 25 years, NTSB has been a harsh critic of Metrorail safety, especially after three previous accidents: one in 1982 that killed three passengers in a tunnel near the Smithsonian Institution; one in 1996 that killed a transit administration operator at the Shady Grove station; and a runaway train in 2004 that injured 20 passengers at the Woodley Park Zoo station.
Even after three collisions and countless recommendations from NTSB, Metro refused to take into consideration ways to better improve the safety of their transportation system, which has now left 12 people dead, 96 injured and a countless number of people left to deal with these incidences in the past 27 years.
Should Metro start listening to NTSB? Or is Metro right to disregard the agency’s recommendations, which are ultimately costly but could potentially save lives?
Institutional Advancement Intern