Train Hits 2 Metro Workers, Killing 1

Metro and Fairfax County rescue officials inspect the scene where a Metrorail car struck two track workers, killing one and injuring the other.
Metro and Fairfax County rescue officials inspect the scene where a Metrorail car struck two track workers, killing one and injuring the other. (By James M. Thresher -- The Washington Post)
By Lena H. Sun and Jamie Stockwell
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, December 1, 2006

The third fatal accident involving a Metro worker and one of its trains in a little more than a year brought an unusually harsh rebuke yesterday from federal transportation officials, who called the transit agency's performance "unacceptable."

"When we see three accidents in 13 months, we want to know what happened," said Mark Rosenker, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, which took over the accident investigation. "That's unacceptable."

A 29-year-veteran of the agency was killed and another worker was critically injured yesterday at 9:33 a.m. when they were hit from behind by an empty Yellow Line train near the Eisenhower Avenue Station in Alexandria.

The workers had been walking the rails looking for cracks, part of a routine inspection done twice a week, Metro officials said. They were walking away from Huntington when Train No. 307, with four rail cars, hit them as it was leaving the station.

The two previous accidents involved similar circumstances of employees working on the tracks being hit and killed by trains. The most recent prompted several changes aimed at improving safety. The three fatalities equal the number of employees killed on the tracks in the agency's first 29 years.

Metro officials said a preliminary investigation showed no violation of safety protocols.

Metro's Operations Control Center knew the two workers were doing inspections, said Steve Feil, Metro's chief operating officer for rail. The workers were wearing safety equipment, including neon-green fluorescent safety vests.

"There was no doubt there was a breakdown," said Feil, who added that Metro will also conduct an investigation.

Yesterday's train had traveled to the end of the Yellow Line at Huntington, then reversed direction on the same track. It was being taken out of service and was heading to the nearby Alexandria rail yard when the accident occurred, Feil said. It stayed on the same track because the other track was closed.

The accident happened near a bend in the stretch of elevated tracks, near I-495, Rosenker said. The train was operating in manual mode, under control of the operator.

During a late-afternoon news conference at the station, Rosenker said he and his team of investigators reacted quickly because of fatal accidents at the Dupont Circle Station in May and at the Braddock Road Station in October 2005.

The NTSB was investigating the Dupont Circle accident, in which Metro employee Jong Won Lee was struck and killed, because it came so soon after the previous one.

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