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Posted at 3:58 PM ET, 02/12/2010

Metro train derailed to avoid a collision

By Washington Post editors

The National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation into Friday's Red Line accident in which a train derailed in order to avoid a collision, officials said. NTSB sent an investigator to the scene near Farragut North Station, according to spokesman Terry Williams. The investigation will be led by Jim Southworth, chief of the NTSB's rail division. A six-car train carrying several hundred people derailed from a side track known as a pocket track about 10:13 a.m. Friday. Three minor injuries were reported. Trains have resumed running in both directions. There were 345 passengers on the train.

Farragut derail

3:07 p.m.
The Red Line train derailed north of Farragut North station Friday morning after a safety device automatically engaged and stopped it because it had crossed from its own track and was headed to the opposite track, into the path of oncoming trains, according to Metro sources familiar with events.

Investigators are trying to understand why the train left the track headed for Shady Grove and crossed into a pocket track, where was stopped by automatic derailers.

Both the train operator and the downtown controller responsible for that section of the Red Line were placed on administrative leave and will undergo drug and alcohol testing, as is standard Metro procedure.

The official did not know how long the operator had been working for Metro.

The train was moving very slowly when the operator attempted to return it to the main track and it derailed, a factor that minimized injuries. A "derailer popped the wheels of the track" because there was a red light ahead, the official said.

"It intentionally derailed the train for safety purposes to stop it from running a red light and prevented a collision," the official said.

The NTSB is now conducting four separate investigations into Metro accidents: the June 22 Red Line crash, which killed eight passengers and a train operator; a November accident at a Northern Virginia rail yard, which injured three workers and caused at least $9 million in damage; a January accident that killed two workers; and Friday's derailment.

-- Ann Scott Tyson

2:49 p.m.
A Metro official said Friday's derailment on the Red Line occurred when equipment on the tracks, known as a derailer, purposely derailed the Shady Grove-bound train, which was on a side track, as a safety measure to prevent it from running a red light and potentially causing a collision.

2:29 p.m.
The National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation into Friday's Red Line accident and has sent an investigator to the scene near Farragut North Station.

Dr. Gridlock was online Friday to discuss Friday's accident.

Metro roundup

2:01 p.m.
After last year's Metro crash, Darrell Fields said he had honed his vigilance as a regular rider between Southwest D.C. and his job managing a travel agency in Dupont Circle. He notices things better and is more attuned to things on the trains. He was in the third car during Friday's derailment and noticed something frightening to him:

As the passengers waited in their train in a tunnel, he heard another southbound car approaching "at regular speed. I thought 'please don't let that one be on our track.'" Three northbound trains also passed in the tunnel, Fields, 40, recalled, "but very slowly."

"I trained myself to think about being near center doors and not getting in the first or last car," he said. In recent months, that attention lapsed a bit but on Friday, Fields was in the third car of the derailed Red Line train "and thought I needed to get back that attention."

Fields, who had been standing in the car when it derailed and not holding a hand rail, said the "bounce" was not enough to throw him to the floor but was more like the bump of an abrupt elevator stop or "minor" air turbulence he said.

Fields has taken a DC Circulator bus to Verizon Center. He had tried to get on another earlier train that was crowded but "this little old lady inside the door sort of shoved me and told me it was too crowded already and said I needed to get off. I just stepped back and got on the next one."

--Mary Pat Flaherty

1:52 p.m.
Victoria White, 23, of Fort Totten, said she was standing and holding onto a handrail in the fourth car when she heard a loud "bang" fell onto a seated passenger.

White was traveling between the Farragut North and Dupont Circle stations, she said.

The mood on the train was light, White said, although many riders were frustrated with the lack of information they received.

About 45 minutes after the stop, said White, she and other passengers in the fourth car learned what was happening when a Metro employee boarded the car.

"I spent 2.5 hours underground and had to pay full fare," said White. "I want my $2.35 back."

Stephanie Ebron, 41, was also in the fourth car. She said the car's lights went out for about 15 minutes before its emergency lights came on.

Some passengers grew cold, said Ebron.

"It wasn't that much of a jolt," Ebron said. "The front cars had more of a jolt."

The passengers began joking with each other, said Ebron: "Anyone who starts panicking will be thrown off the train," joked one, and others began telling jokes to pass the time and keep the mood calm during an impromptu comedy hour.

--Keith Alexander

1:18 p.m.
Linda Strating of Alexandria was in the third car of the train when she heard and felt a "thump and a funny noise."

"People murmured 'that didn't sound good' and almost immediately the operator came on and said 'Ladies and Gentlemen, we have derailed.'" The operator followed that with assurances help was enroute and urged passengers not to panic, Strating said. "I felt bad for her. Her voice sounded like she was trying not to cry."

Nearly everyone in her car, Strating said, was seated and "there was no one thrown about" or knocked off their feet and passengers were calm. She did not see anyone injured.

The lights in her car returned but the front two cars remained blacked out. As they waited for "about 20 minutes" Strating said she saw several trains passing on their right and some on their left until firefighters eventually approached with flashlights.

Passengers from the first two cars were moved to the back cars and the train was towed back to Farragut North, she said and passengers offloaded through the doors on what had been the third car.

Train service already had slowed due to single tracking and had taken 45 minutes to get from Van Dorn to Metro Center on the Blue Line before her Red Line transfer, said Strating, who usually drives to her job as a recruiter at the Institute of World Politics, which does counterterrorism and intelligence training.

Strating said she will take the train home "because I don't have a choice and what are the odds of being in something like this a second time?"

--Mary Pat Flaherty

1:05 p.m.
Metro passenger Faye Dickerson, 50, of Clinton, said she was on the fourth car. "The train suddenly stopped and the lady came on the line and announced the derailment. "Then she came back on a little later and told every body to stay calm and patient, they were waiting for emergency crews to get there," Dickerson said.

Dickerson, looking uneasy as she stood at the bottom of a set of escalators leading up to the street from the station, said she was unhurt, but felt shaken up.

"It was frightening," she said."I'm still shaken from it."

"I didn't feel like a strong impact or anything. It just seemed like an emergency the way it stopped suddenly.

"They had the people come from the first two cars onto the third and fourth cars, and then they disconnected the first two cars."

She said she was headed to her job at Fannie Mae in northwest Washington.

It was her first day back at work since last Thursday. "I was trying to make it there, get some things done," she said.

"I'm actually quite tired of Metro, and a lot of things that's happening" she said. "They talking about increasing the fares. And I don't think we're getting the kind of service we need... It just seems so unreliable."

--Michael Ruane

12:54 p.m.
Andrew Kneale, 27, of Arlington, was headed into the District for his first day back at work at the British Council on Metro’s Red Line. After leaving Farragut North he felt a slight bump and the train stopped.

“It was nothing severe,’’ he said. “It didn’t jar anyone. You wouldn’t know it was a derailment.”

Kneale, a cultural relations project manager for the British Council, was riding in the second or third car of the train, he said. After the bump, a voice came over the loudspeaker and announced the train had derailed, he said. He and the other passengers sat for about an hour and 20 minutes until the car he was riding in could be decoupled and sent back to Farragut North.

Despite the Red Line’s troubled reputation, Kneale wasn’t phased by Friday's derailment. He said Metro seemed to handle the situation well. In fact, if the trains are running, he plans to take Metro to get back home.

“It wasn’t that big of a deal,” he said. “I’m fine.”

--Lori Aratani

12:44 p.m.
From the perspective of those on the derailed train, the incident "was very undramatic," said Michael Newman, an editor at, a Washington Post Company web magazine. "From where I was sitting -- the last car of the train -- it felt like we had just stopped. In fact, the operator came on the intercom, as they usually do when the train stops. And usually they say: 'Customers, please be advised, we will be moving momentarily. Thank you for your patience.' This time it was, 'Customers, please be advised, we have derailed.'"

Newman said it took about an hour for emergency personnel to make their way to the derailed train. On board, he said, "Some people made small talk, others read or listened to whatever was coming out of their headphones. Finally we moved backwards toward Farragut North -- and the car door wouldn't open. So we all had to go to the door at the other end of the car."

A firefighter told passengers to head toward the L Street exit. At the turnstile there, as Newman was about to put his fare card into the slot, a Metro employee said, "That's ok, you can just come on out," a savings of $1.35.

Then, Newman said, "Metro being Metro, the exit to the street was closed. So we all had to wait for a while for someone to come and open the grate."

--Marc Fisher

12:39 p.m.
DDOT's John Lisle says that Eastbound K Street has reopened.

--Dan Morse

12:37 p.m.
Ubah Aden, 36, of Alexandria, who works at American University, described the derailment as akin to airline turbulence. Many people were standing in her car, but none was knocked off his or her feet, she said. There was no panic, but plenty of annoyance.

-- Paul Duggan

12:36 p.m.
Nick Berning was in the front car of the train that derailed, standing just behind the female conductor looking out of the front window. He commutes everyday from Union Station to DuPont Circle, where he works for Friends of the Earth.

“We were going pretty slow,” he said. “I felt a quick drop, a bump or two and the train tilted to the left. The driver came on and said there had been a derailment. We could hear the driver calling into the headquarters saying, ‘I have got to tell them something.”’

Berning, 29, said he was standing up and not holding anything. “I did not come close to falling,” he said. “I don’t see how anyone could have been hurt.”

Other passengers on the train spent an hour and a half joking, he said, although one man complained that he had to use the bathroom really bad.

Also on the train were three Metro workers wearing yellow vests and an extra driver. After a while, they went into the driver’s compartment and surveyed the damage.

When they returned, passengers were sent to the back four cars, which were disconnected and driven backwards back into Farrugut North, where they had just left.

---Robert E. Pierre

12:31 p.m.
Metro has issued the following release:

The Farragut North Metrorail station reopened at 12:11 p.m. today (Feb. 12) after a six-car Red Line train headed in the direction of Shady Grove Metrorail station, which derailed from a pocket track (side track) just after it serviced the Farragut North Metrorail station.

Trains will be restricted to a speed of 25 mph between Dupont Circle and Farragut North Metrorail stations while Metro officials investigate the incident.
The rail cars that comprised the train were 6096 (lead car), 6097, 1197, 1196, 6039 and 6038. The first two cars of the train (rail cars 6096 and 6097) remain in the pocket track. They are expected to be removed after the rail system closes tonight at midnight.

12:30 p.m.
Even though the Farragut North station has reopened there are residual delays in
both directions following a derailment Friday morning, according to
Metro. Shuttle buses have been ferrying customers from Dupont Circle to
Gallery Place-Chinatown and stopping at intermediate stations.

--Ann Scott Tyson

12:23 p.m.
Metro Board Chairman Peter Benjamin said there is a switch just north of the Farragut North station that takes trains onto a side track, and that may have been involved in the derailment. Derailments tend to occur “if there is something on the rail that pushes the wheels up, if it is on a very tight turn and the wheels ride up on the rail,” Benjamin said.

Still, he said that derailments are unusual and most occur in rail yards where there are sharp turns. “The fact that derailments are very, very rare would indicate there is not an inherent problem” with the type of rail car, he said. A Metro official said the train likely included a combination of different series of rail cars.

--Ann Scott Tyson

12:17 p.m. Witness accounts of derailment
Shaken passengers emerging from Farragut North, who said they had been on the derailed train, said they felt a bump and the train came to a halt. The operator came on the intercom and said the train had derailed and help was on the way.

Passengers said there was no panic. A child vomited. And passengers said they were most worried about being struck by another train.

The lights did not go out in the cars. After about an hour, passengers from the first two cars filed into the rear cars, which were then pulled back to Farragut North.

There people exited, looking bewildered. Some said Metro had promised shuttle buses but none were in sight. "I thought I was going to die," said Tyler Mack, 12, who was with his mother, Teri, 43, headed to her job in Bethesda.
Many passengers said it was their first day back at work after the storm.

--Michael Ruane

12:12 p.m. Fire officials also said two of those injured refused treatment and the third was taken to George Washington University Hospital.

12:10 p.m. Metro passengers who are being turned back on trains that are being reversed at Gallery Place are being charged full fare to exit at the station where the originally boarded the train. Post reporters who were required to turn back and got off at their original station were charged $1.35 for the ride.--Marc Fisher

12:00 p.m. The D.C. Department of Transportation is reporting road closures around Metro Farragut North station. Drivers are encouraged to avoid the area. Here are the street closures:

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is advising motorists that multiple downtown streets are closed due to a train derailment near the Farragut North Metro Station. At this time the following streets are closed: K Street, NW between 17th and 18th Streets; Connecticut Avenue between K and L Streets; 17th Street, NW between I and K Streets (east of the park); 17th Street, NW between I and K Streets (west of the park); 17th Street between K and L Street

In addition, the Georgetown – Union Station Circulator route which travels east and west on K Street is also impacted by the closures.

11:58 a.m. Soon after 11:30 a Red Line train bound for Glenmont off-loaded hundreds of passengers at the Dupont Circle station.

Some were resigned, others livid.

"Oh, I'm trying to keep my cool," said John Thomas, 58, of Rockville, who had been en route to his job at a federal court administrative office near Union Station. "It's a hassle, yes."

A 66-year-old woman who said she worked for the federal government near Farragut West was outraged that the government had decided to open.

"They evidently opened the system before they were ready," she said, declining to give her name. "This is because OPM was embarrassed to have employees off five days. So they put us on Metro."

-- Nick Anderson

11:48 a.m. -- Metro officials said a six-car train on the Red Line carrying several hundred people derailed from a side track known as a pocket track at about 10:13 a.m. this morning. No Red Line trains are currently able to pass through the shut down Farragut North station.

“The front wheel of the lead car came off the tracks,” said Lisa Farbstein, Metro spokesperson, who did not have additional details on why the train derailed.

Metro employees moved all customers into the rear four cars, decoupled those from the front two, and moved the cars so that passengers could disembark, Farbstein said. Shuttle buses are transporting customers to other stations, she said. There were no reported injuries, she said.

The accident has caused major delays on the Red Line, and Farbstein had no time estimate for when those will be cleared up as Metro officials investigate the incident. “Right now, we’re holding,” she said.

-- Ann Scott Tyson

11:45 a.m. -- No Metro service between Dupont Circle and Gallery Place due to derailed train at Farragut North.

11:30 a.m. -- Red Line Metro train derailment at Farragut North At about 10:45 a.m. this morning a One car of a Red Line Metro train traveling to Glenmont Shady Grove derailed at Farragut North. No injuries have been reported. D.C. Fire and EMS crews are on the scene. D.C. officials said passengers are still on the six-car train.

D.C. Fire and EMS spokesman Pete Piringer said the train operator is reporting there are no serious injuries. Piringer could not say how full the train was or why it derailed.

He said rescue workers are trying to shut down power and move other train traffic out of the way to access the passengers who are still on the train.

"Once we shut the power down, we'll fully assess the situation," Piringer said.

Call of derailment came in around 10:45 a.m., Piringer said. Post reporter J. Freedom duLac who is aboard a Red Line train stopped at Fort Totten, said an operator announced that trains at Judiciary Square are being turned back to Glenmont. Meanwhie, fire trucks, emergency vehicles and police tape blocked off traffic at Connecticut Avenue and K Streets, NW near the Farragut North station. Passengers exiting the station said the interior looked normal, but officials were yellng to them that the station was closed and directing them outside.

Austan Mogharabi, 25, who got off a Red Line train from Bethesda about 20 minutes ago, said: "A few security guys were around. Someone said the platform was closed. They asked us to exit from the L Street side. I don't know why.''

Josh Bone, 24, said he was stopped at the Dupont Circle station for 10 or 15 minutes before getting out at Farragut North.

"Everything at Farragut looked normal, " he said.


Good morning. Here's what we know this morning about weather, transit and other post-storm news. The D.C. area is trying its best to return to normal. All Blue, Yellow and Green line Metro stations are open and bus service is slowing expanding. On the Red Line, service is running between White Flint and Glenmont; Orange Line service is running between East Falls Church and New Carrollton. Federal workers are back at work today with a two hour delayed arrival and with unscheduled leave; the U.S. postal service will again attempted mail deliveries; most area schools remain closed. Weather-wise, the Capital Weather Gang says it will be sunny to partly sunny with temperatures in the high 30's to low 40's. There's a slight chance of snow flurries tonight. Trash pick-up has resumed in the District.

In Frederick County, search and rescue crews worked late into the night to try and reach several more vehicles reported stranded. After tracking down dozens of vehicles stranded in white-out conditions over the previous 24 hours, at least 10 more vehicles were reported stranded on Thursday night. By 11 p.m., emergency workers had dug out seven cars and sent them on their way. One family was brought to a nearby firehouse until the roads cleared up. Two other vehicles, including a utility truck, were in the process of being freed. We'll continue to update this story today.

9:55 a.m. -- Postal carriers will attempt deliveries.
The U.S. Postal Service says its carriers will resume deliveries around the D.C. region again today and asks that people clear snow from around their mailboxes and off their porches so that mail and packages can be dropped off. Post offices will reopen as staffing allows. Check the USPS' website for information.

-- Ed O'Keefe

Metro expands train service
All Blue, Green and Yellow line Metro stations are open with trains running at approximately 25 minute intervals. On the Red Line, service is running between White Flint and Glentmont; Orange Line service is running between East Falls Church and New Carrollton.

8:20 a.m. Trash collection resumes in the District
The D.C. Department of Public Works has announced that it will collect trash today, Feb. 12 from the front properties of homes with Friday collection days. Residents are asked to place their trash in dark colored plastic (not paper) bags and place the bags at the curb for collection. No recycling will be collected.

-- Theola Labb`e-DeBose

Metro expands service, but 15 many stations still closed
Metro announced that it will open rail service at 5 a.m. Friday with 15 some stations closed (on Thursday evening Metro had said it hoped to have all but nine stations open), as workers continued to clear drifts of up to six feet of snow from the tracks.

Rail service will remain open until midnight instead of 3 am and will include all Green Line stations and limited service on the Red, Orange, Blue and Yellow Lines.

These portions of the lines will be in service (UPDATED 8:30 a.m.):
Red Line: Medical Center White Flint to Glenmont
Orange Line: Ballston East Falls Church to New Carrollton
Blue Line: All stations are open.
Yellow Line: All stations are open.
Green Line: All stations are open.

For more information, see Get There.

By Washington Post editors  | February 12, 2010; 3:58 PM ET
Tags:  Metro, metro derailment, metro red line crash, red line crash, red line derailment  
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Next: District will lift snow emergency Saturday evening


Now that there is a long-overdue admission that a cultural change is needed at WMATA, let's not forget the culture of bus drivers running red lights (and illegally starting on orange lights) with apparent impunity. I say culture because I witness this violation 3-5 times daily while walking to and from work 3 miles across downtown - often to the detriment of pedestrians attempting to cross legally (of course, I see even more car drivers running lights). I say impunity because I see police witness this probably at least once a week and do nothing (and I regularly see police ignoring regular car drivers who run red lights). Until THAT culture changes I will believe nothing about so-called culture change at WMATA.

Posted by: citizen2u | February 13, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

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