RED LINE CRASH

National Transportation Safety Board Runs Test at Site of Metro Red Line Crash

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board tried to simulate conditions as much as possible of the Metro crash June 22.
Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board tried to simulate conditions as much as possible of the Metro crash June 22. (By Marcus Yam -- The Washington Post)
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By James Hohmann
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 19, 2009

National Transportation Safety Board investigators conducted a sight-distance test yesterday evening at the exact time and location of the Metro Red Line crash June 22.

The cause of the accident, which killed nine people and injured 80, remains a mystery. Investigators, who have been looking at a malfunctioning track circuit, have said that Jeanice McMillan -- the operator of the striking train, who was killed in the crash -- applied the emergency brake about 425 feet before she slammed into a stopped train while headed toward Fort Totten.

Among other goals, investigators were trying to ascertain whether McMillan could have seen the train stopped ahead. They tried to simulate crash conditions as much as possible. The crash happened just before 5 p.m., and the day was also warm, with mostly clear skies. For a little more than an hour, investigators ran trains in the same positions and sequence as those involved in the crash and took measurements, photos and notes. They did not discuss results.

The area of track where the crash occurred is relatively curvy. Officials are trying to determine when the striking train, which was traveling at nearly 60 mph, would have seen the train ahead of it.

About two hours before the test, two women in a Land Rover pulled up to a memorial on the bridge over that area of track. A shrine erected after the crash remains there. A bouquet of a dozen white roses wilted long ago but remained tucked into the black fence on the bridge's south side.

D.C. resident Carolyn Jenkins goes out every day to tend the memorial she built for her daughter who died in the crash. She makes sure the picture of her daughter, 29-year-old Veronica DuBose, is there and that the red, black and lavender ribbons she put up, her daughter's favorite colors, are tidy.

She said she hopes investigators see the memorial and remember the human element of the tragedy.

"It helps me a lot, and I'm hoping it helps them hurry up and fix the train," Jenkins said.

A poem was posted on the fence. At the end, the anonymous author wrote, "May all factors be corrected that contributed to this event so that they did not die in vain."

Staff writer Lena H. Sun contributed to this report.


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