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Metro Crash Investigation Turns Up Electronic Control 'Anomalies'

Two Red Line Metrorail trains crashed June 22, 2009 between the Fort Totten and Takoma Park stations, killing nine, including one train operator.

In another development, the FBI recovered several cellphones from the crash site and are working to determine whether one was McMillan's, Hersman said. She said a preservation order has been issued for McMillan's cellphone records

Hersman also reiterated that the NTSB is concerned about the type of cars involved in Monday's crash. Purchased from Rohr Industries in 1974-78, they are Metro's oldest and have a tendency to fold into themselves, like a telescope, during a crash.

Jackie L. Jeter, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, which represents train operators, said the union is demanding that Metro make several immediate changes, including using Rohr cars only when they are sandwiched between newer-model cars. The striking train in Monday's crash was composed of Rohr cars; the leading car incurred the worst damage and was compressed by two-thirds.

The union also wants operators to be given more control over their trains. "These demands are based on my belief that this accident should have never happened," Jeter said.

Investigators said yesterday that anti-climbers -- devices that should have prevented the first car of the striking train from vaulting onto the car it hit -- engaged in the crash but that the moving car "failed to stay intact . . . and it climbed up."

The first lawsuit against Metro as a result of the crash was filed yesterday, and more are expected. The parents of Davonne Flanagan, 15, of the District sued in federal court, charging "negligent operation" and "negligent maintenance" on the part of Metro and the train's operator.

Davonne was in the first car of the moving train, toward the back, when it struck; his leg was fractured, said his attorney, Lawrence Lapidus. Lapidus said the family is seeking $950,000 for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other restitution.

"Depending on what is found, there are grave possibilities for liability for the . . . agency," said Paul Rothstein, a professor of tort law at Georgetown University.

Metro has created an emergency fund for survivors and families of the victims to help with medical, funeral and other expenses, the agency said.

Meanwhile, a top official at Boston's transit system called Metro the night of the crash to discuss the signal system, according to Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority spokesman Joe Pesaturo. He declined to say what was discussed.

Boston uses an automated train protection system similar to Metro's.

Last month, the MBTA experienced what Pesaturo described as an "isolated" signal system failure when a faulty circuit board along the track in one section of Boston's Orange Line failed to detect trains. Engineers discovered the problem and immediately stopped using the automated system while they checked all circuit boards. Trains had to be dispatched by radio for 12 days, and MBTA personnel were posted at each station to give the go-ahead for trains to proceed. That caused delays.

Boston uses signal systems made by the same manufacturer as Metro's, Alstom Transport. No problems were found with the other circuit boards, and the faulty one was replaced by the manufacturer, Adco Circuit, a subcontractor of Alstom's, Pesaturo said.

Staff writers Chris L. Jenkins, Sholnn Freeman and Ovetta Wiggins and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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