: News

NTSB: Failure Of Train Signal Led To Metro Crash

Play associated audio

By SARAH BRUMFIELD Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) A faulty electronic circuit that caused a deadly 2009 Metro crash in Washington was symptomatic of an ``anemic safety culture'' at the D.C. area's transit agency, the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday.

Eight passengers and a train operator were killed in June 2009 when a Metrorail train rear-ended a second-train stopped before the Fort Totten station.

As expected, the NTSB concluded that the collision occurred because Metro's automatic signal system failed to detect the presence of the stopped train. The operator of the approaching train was told to continue traveling at 55 mph. She pulled the emergency brake, but the train was still traveling at more than 40 mph at the moment of the collision.

More broadly, the NTSB said Metro ignored repeated warning signs and fostered a culture of indifference to chronic safety issues. The agency was warned about deficiencies in its safety department for 15 years before the crash, NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hersman said.

"If they don't listen this time, I'm not sure what else can be done here," Hershman said. "There's got to be some action; there's got to be some change. There needs to be better oversight."

The NTSB faulted Metro's board of directors for failing to actively monitor safety issues. The track signaling system failed to recognize trains 3,000 times a week, but the issue was deemed a minor nuisance, the NTSB said.

In her opening remarks, Hersman said the Fort Totten station crash was not the first time Metro's safety system was compromised. Previous accidents, some of which killed employees, foreshadowed the deadlier crash, she said.

"Because the necessary preventive measures were not taken, the only question was when would Metro have another accident, and of what magnitude," Hersman said.

Associated Press writers Matthew Barakat, Lauren Sausser, Jessica Gresko and Ben Nuckols in Washington, and Brian Witte in Annapolis, Md., contributed to this report. (Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


From Trembling Teacher To Seasoned Mentor: How Tim Gunn Made It Work

Gunn, the mentor to young designers on Project Runway, has been a teacher and educator for decades. But he spent his childhood "absolutely hating, hating, hating, hating school," he says.

How Do We Get To Love At 'First Bite'?

It's the season of food, and British food writer Bee Wilson has a book on how our food tastes are formed. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with her about her new book, "First Bite: How We Learn to Eat."

Osceola At The 50-Yard Line

The Seminole Tribe of Florida works with Florida State University to ensure it that its football team accurately presents Seminole traditions and imagery.

Reviving Payoff For Prediction – Of Terrorism Risk

Could an electronic market where people bet on the likelihood of attacks deter terrorism? NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Stephen Carter about the potential for a terror prediction market.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.