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Train Arriving After Crash Let Passengers Disembark

By Eric M. Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 6, 2004; Page B01

A Metro train pulled into the Woodley Park Station shortly after two trains crashed on the opposite track Wednesday, and the operator opened the doors, allowing passengers into a station still containing the dust and debris from the wreck across the platform.

Metro policy states that a train operator who encounters a dangerous scene at a station should keep the doors closed, radio headquarters and await instructions if time permits, said Lisa Farbstein, a spokeswoman for the transit agency. She said she could not discuss the specifics of Wednesday's events because they are under investigation.

Crews at the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan Station use a "prime mover" on a damaged Metro car. (Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)

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The inbound train entered the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan Station several minutes after the 12:49 p.m. accident, according to a Washington Post editor who was in the station at the time of the crash. About a dozen passengers exited the train and left the station.

The National Transportation Safety Board will consider the actions of Metro operators and supervisors as it continues its investigation of the crash, which occurred when a train with no passengers aboard rolled backward through a tunnel and struck a six-car train that had just picked up passengers in the station.

Federal investigators promised a complete review of Metro's safety.

"We still don't know if it was a human or mechanical issue," Debbie Hersman, a member of the safety board, said of the crash. "We're concerned about everything."

Twenty people were injured in the crash, which disrupted service on the Red Line, Metro's busiest.

As commuters endured further delays and crowded trains yesterday, transit workers were removing the damaged cars from the Woodley Park Station. Metro trains still were sharing a single track near where the wreck occurred.

Riders on the platform at Woodley Park during yesterday morning's commute watched as a yellow machine -- a "prime mover" -- pried open the front of a wrecked Metro car as if it were a tuna can, to begin removing it.

Metro must clear the last cars and test the track and other components at the station before it can resume normal service on the line.

At the same time, track work this weekend in preparation for the opening of the Red Line's New York Avenue-Florida Avenue-Gallaudet University station will require closing of the Rhode Island Avenue and Brookland-CUA stations until 5 a.m. Monday.

Investigators are continuing to focus on braking systems to find out why the runaway train failed to stop before hitting the train in the station.

The NTSB will be contacting equipment manufacturers as well as inspecting the equipment on the train cars involved. Officials also requested a timeline of Metro's emergency response and asked to review dispatch records from an hour before to an hour after the incident.

The NTSB interviewed Metro control supervisors and other managers yesterday.

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