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Live-Blogging Fenty's Train Crash News Conference

We'll be providing live coverage of the news conference, which is scheduled to start at 5 p.m., in this post. You also can watch the press conference live on

6:13 p.m.: The rescue squad members spell their names for the press, and that's the end of the news conference.

6:11 p.m.: "Everybody knew what their job was and everything just fell into place," squad member Nicole Norris says.

6:10 p.m.: Another initial concern was possible fire suppression, another rescue squad member says. Once it was clear that wasn't an issue, triaging and evacuation became the order of the day.

6:09 p.m.: Also immediately requested considerable backup, related that the accident was not at the station but between them. Had to haul heavy cutting equipment down the tracks -- at least 150 yards -- from the nearest available entrance.

6:08 p.m.: "We really keyed on the worst-entrapped people on the train," got less-injured passengers to aid others.

6:07 p.m.: Lt. John Carroll of the rescue squad says initial call was to Fort Totten Station, after which they were given a sort of rail "mile marker" for where the accident was located. "Once we got into the track bed and turned to the south, that was where you saw the wreckage. That was pretty unbelievable, to see a train on top of another train."

6:04 p.m.: Fenty points out a handful of the earliest responders to the crash. "The city and the region owe them a tremendous amount of gratitude." They'll be available to the media after the news conference.

6:04 p.m.: The NTSB is having a team meeting at 7 p.m., and Hersman pledges to release additional facts as they become available.

6:02 p.m.: Reiterates that they're requesting cellphone and text messaging records. Hersman says that the proliferation of distractions has been a problem for transit drivers -- several Post readers have pointed to a recent accident in Boston -- but they have no such information on this accident yet.

6:00 p.m.: Too premature to comment on which train or where exactly in those trains all of the people who were killed were, Hersman says.

5:59 p.m.: WMATA records have yet to be checked, so NTSB has no knowledge of the maintenance record of the trains yet. The Post has reported that the train that rear-ended the other was two months overdue for brake maintenance.

5:57 p.m.: Hersman thanks homeowners in the vicinity of the crash for putting up with all the emergency personnel and media tromping around their yards and keeping their streets closed.

5:56 p.m.: The train that was struck was stopped on the tracks because there already was a train stopped at Fort Totten Station ahead of it. NTSB is working the correlate the times. The board will finish their on-site work this afternoon, after which the trains will be removed for further examination. WMATA will determine the reopening schedule.

5:55 p.m.: The newest cars Metro is using were produced in 1997.

5:54 p.m.: WMATA ranks sixth among 15 for average age of their rolling stock. There are 20 1000 series cars from 1975, about 50(?) from 1976, 126 from 1977 and 48 from in 1978. This is a quarter of the Metro fleet.

5:52 p.m.: The trains themselves will be removed and held for examination, much of it using flatbed equipment provided by WMATA. The NTSB will also be doing testing on the tracks soon using two trains like the two that crashed. This will involve checking braking distance and sitelines.

5:51 p.m.: The train operator had only been driving trains since March. The NTSB has requested toxicology, phone and text messaging records, and is checking into what she'd done in the past 72 hours -- all standard checks in a crash investigation.

5:48 p.m.: Blue coloration on the brake rotors indicated that the emergency brakes had in fact been engaged.

5:47 p.m.: The train was in automatic mode at the time of the crash, which is typical for rush-hour Metro trains. Three different controls in the operator cabin verified that. The "mushroom" -- the emergency brake -- had been pushed.

5:45 p.m.: Points out that the track where the crash occurred is not actually straight -- it's very slightly curved. Track speed in the stretch is 59 mph and they are checking for the precise point of the crash. Earlier this month there was also work done on the train control system between Fort Totten and the New Hampshire Street overpass.

5:43 p.m.: Track group is working closely with the FBI doing GPS and satellite imagery work on the track, the equipment and how it came to rest and was damaged.

5:42 p.m.: Debbie Hersman from the National Transportation Safety Board introduces Ed Doberneski, the investigator in charge of 19 NTSB workers on the scene of the crash.

5:40 p.m.: Metro general manager is in contact with the Secretary of Transportation to seek stimulus funding for the effort to replace the 30-year-old train cars.

5:40 p.m.: "We are aggressively seeking to replace the 1000 series rail cars. These cars were purchased between 1974 and 1978. ... We have already issued a request for proposals ... and have received bids in response to that request. "

5:37 p.m.: Jim Graham of the Metro Board says the board will meet again for their regular meeting on Thursday. He also announces the relief fund referenced below, and says the fund is for responding to immediate human needs only, not reaching a legal settlement.

5:37 p.m.: Metro's John Catoe steps up to the microphone and offers his thanks to the first responders, and pledges to provide all necessary information to find the cause of the accident.

5:35 p.m.: Fenty speaks highly of David Wherley, former commander of the District's National Guard personnel.

5:34 p.m.: Cathy Lanier is up next. Fenty says that the identities of four of the remaining dead have been identified, including David and Ann Wherley, Veronica DuBose and Cameron Williams. The last victim, the Metrorail driver who was the first identified in the media, apparently is still being identified by authorities.

5:31 p.m.: Injured persons all were transferred within an hour of the accident, with the worst-off pair of victims getting off the scene within 20 minutes of emergency personnel's arrival. The handoff to the NTSB was at 1 p.m. The fire chief says they provided medical attention to 51 people.

5:30 p.m.: Chief Dennis Rubin starts by praising the work of his personnel and those of associated agencies and begins running down the timeline of the response to the accident.

5:28 p.m.: Identification of the other victims is waiting on fingerprinting and other forensic work. Fenty says the fire department has finished their work at the accident site and that the NTSB is now taking the lead in the investigation, and turns the microphone over to the fire chief.

5:26 p.m.: The mayor also says they've finished the search of the wreckage with nine bodies found, and confirms that LaVonda King, Ana Hernandez, Mary Doolittle and Dennis Hawkins are among the dead.

5:24 p.m.: Fenty: "It was 24 hours ago we lost our neighbors, the people we live with, the people we work with." Also wishes a speedy recovery for the injured.

5:19 p.m.: The Post's Lena Sun reports that Metro's board of directors voted in meeting this afternoon to set up a $250,000 fund to help victims and their families.

5:17 p.m.: Looks like we're going to get started in just a couple of minutes.

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  June 23, 2009; 6:15 PM ET
Categories:  Metro , transit  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The Red Line on the Ride Home
Next: Identities of Victims Released


Why do all these so-called power people stand around in a group looking sad. They are probably getting in the way, more than helping.

Who is that fruity looking guy with the orange rimmed glasses and the high pitched voice?

Posted by: mortified469 | June 23, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Hey, tiny nitpick. Why it "Chief Rubin" but "Cathy Lanier." Last time I checked, the Chief of Police had a title too.

Posted by: epjd | June 23, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Somebody please shove a big bag of farecards into Jim Graham's useless mouth.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | June 23, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

"Who is that fruity looking guy with the orange rimmed glasses and the high pitched voice?

Posted by: mortified469 | June 23, 2009 5:26 PM"

LOL! That would be the aforementioned useless Jim Graham.

You must have missed him yesterday when his blaze orange safety vest clashed with those glasses of his.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | June 23, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

WashingtonDame...I did see that. I was wondering how somebody so soft looking could try to look like a he-man rescuer. I was waiting for him to jump out a direct traffic. A real law enforcement wannabe.

Posted by: mortified469 | June 23, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

"5:48 p.m.: Blue coloration on the brake rotors indicated that the emergency brakes had in fact been engaged.

5:47 p.m.: The train was in automatic mode at the time of the crash, which is typical for rush hour Metro trains. Three different controls in the operator cabin verified that. The "mushroom" -- the emergency brake -- had been pushed."

I wonder if the NTSB can figure out when and where the operator pressed the mushroom. That would be critical to determining whether the emergency brake failed or was pushed too late to be of any help.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | June 23, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Certainly is a lot of white folks there. Even the mayor looks white in that group. All they are saying is yada,yada, yada!

Posted by: mortified469 | June 23, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Nothing wrong with referring to officials by first and last name. In fact, getting kind of disgusted by the DC political culture's Soviet-style use of job titles as honorifics: "Leader Boehner", "Chairman Byrd", "Secretary Gibbs", "Member Hersman", etc, etc, ad nauseum.

Posted by: xckq | June 23, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

I'm puzzled by this "slightly" curved track. Look at the photos - there's a good one from the rear of the striking train, plainly showing that the stopped train was just beyond a curve. Judging from the photograph, that curve is way too sharp for the stopped train to have been visible from downtrack, and there was a partial fence. If there had been houses in the way (and it appeared that the whole area was residential) the operator might not have seen the stopped train until shortly before the crash, when she would just have had time to throw the emergency brake before impact.

Seems we have several problems here: a) who is stupid enough to stop a train just beyond a curve on a busy line? b) why did the "automatic" pilot fail? c) Is it possible to throw the train out of automatic easily, or was the emergency brake working against the motor? d) Is brake maintenance an ongoing problem for the Metro?

And: whose head is going to roll about the failures in keeping the automatic system up and running, and keeping brake maintenance happening?

Sometime is responsible for these issues. Let's see their names in print.

Posted by: heckertkrs | June 23, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Not an expert on Metro's track and signaling design, but...

Typically, a rail line is divided into "blocks", and the each block begins with a signal. Blocks are set up such that only one train can occupy the block, and so a train behind it will get a red signal until the block in front of it is free. So, it doesn't matter that you can't see the whole length of the block ahead of you; obviously this is done to prevent collisions.

If the trains were on automatic mode, and if signals were being transmitted correctly, and if all the controls and braking worked on the train, then you shouldn't have a collision. Sounds like 1 or more of those went wrong. But it's not up to the operator to see the entire length of the block ahead of her before she proceeds (if on automatic mode).

Posted by: Chris737 | June 23, 2009 7:29 PM | Report abuse

I stand in awe of all this information. I was posted from Canberra Australia to DC in 1968 and they were just starting to dig the Metro in then. In 1990 I went back to ride on the service- brilliant!!! A sad event but as the saying goes - accidents will happen!

Posted by: spirit2 | June 23, 2009 7:35 PM | Report abuse

If in fact, the lack of proper maintenance on the brakes contributed to the crash, everybody in the chain of command, from the shop foreman to Metro General Manager Catoe should be fired. Catoe is ultimately responsible for safety within the Metro system. Also, all Metro board members ought to be replaced for their lack of proper oversight of the agency. Safety should be job 1.

Posted by: ffxkid | June 23, 2009 8:06 PM | Report abuse

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