2 Workers Sent to Hospital in Metro Accident at Va. Rail Yard

By James Hohmann
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 28, 2009

Two Metro mechanics were transported to the hospital Wednesday night after a two-car train struck the rail cars they were working on at the West Falls Church rail yard, the transit agency said Thursday.

The accident happened about 6 p.m., when an operator was moving a train into the shop at a "very slow speed," Metro spokeswoman Cathy Asato said. A preliminary investigation indicates that "a contributing factor" might have been too much grease on the tracks, she said.

"It was a very minor thing," Asato said. "It's kind of like if your bumper is hit. It happens occasionally. . . . It looks like the train just slid into the other one."

Both men, who were servicing rail car doors, were taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital "as a precaution" and released after an examination, Asato said. There were no injuries, she said, even though one man had complained of whiplash.

Now, pending an internal investigation, four employees are on paid administrative leave. Besides the two men who went to the hospital, the mechanic operating the striking train and another mechanic inside that train were both given drug and alcohol tests, Asato said. They will stay off the job while investigators determine whether anyone acted improperly, she said.

Metro estimates that the accident resulted in a few hundred dollars in damage.

A hospital spokeswoman declined to comment on the condition of the two men when they were released.

The work history and safety records of all four workers were unavailable, but Asato said the employees were all "fairly seasoned."

Metro's rail and safety divisions are investigating the incident, which officials stressed did not affect regular train service because it occurred in the rail yard.

During August, two men have died while doing work for Metro. A gravel-spreading machine struck and killed spotter Michael Nash on Aug. 9 during routine track maintenance work on the Orange Line. On Aug. 18, Steven T. Griffith, an employee of a subcontractor, apparently touched a live wire while installing a new air compressor at the Bladensburg bus garage. Griffith died shortly after at a hospital.

In July, an operator who delivered a train with two extra cars from a rail yard to the Greenbelt Metro station tested positive for drugs and enrolled in a drug rehabilitation program.

Metro's safety record has come under scrutiny since the June 22 Red Line train crash that killed nine and injured 80.

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