Disaster on the Red Line

A chaplain from Walter Reed. A doctor from Walter Reed. The owner of a new hair salon. An architect. On a Metro train, in one terrifying instant and its aftermath, their lives became forever intertwined.

The victims

Casualties from
all walks of life

"Everybody at some point uses Metro. Everybody was going about their everyday routine. Then this happened."

The rescuers

'We tried everything'

At catastrophic scene, emergency personnel dig through twisted wreckage to get to hurt passengers. | Raw Video

June 23

At least six killed in Red Line crash

One Metro train slammed into the back of another at the height of the evening rush yesterday in the deadliest accident in Metrorail's 33-year-history.

June 24

Amid chaos, victims tried
to comfort each other

Lying in Howard University Hospital's ICU yesterday, Lanice Beasley kept recalling the older woman who talked to her even as she was dying beside her.

June 25

More Than Case No. 09-01458

Two days after crash, relatives of those killed quietly work through puzzling, mundane logistics -- how and when to ID and claim bodies, possessions, clear out apartments.

June 26

Metro control system fails test

Train control system that should have prevented crash failed in test conducted by investigators, suggesting crucial breakdown of technology sent one train slamming into another.

June 27

Paying tribute to 'the Metro hero'

At memorial service, Metro general operator says that by hitting emergency brake, train operator saved lives.

June 28

Three minutes to Fort Totten

The train operator stuck her head out the window and watched the Walter Reed doctor run toward the open doors, both wrapping up their days. She smiled and held open the door until he was on the train. That was how the final passenger made it onto Car 1079.

June 29

For victim's family, a sad reunion

For 20 years after Ana Fernandez left rural El Salvador for the suburban Maryland, she longed to bring over the baby son and her parents for a family reunion. Yesterday that wish was finally granted in death.

June 30

Together in life, and in death

"They did just about everything together except command the D.C. National Guard," Del. Norton says. | Video

Newer Metro rail cars
to buffer oldest in fleet

System's original cars, now more than 30 years old, have been criticized for tendency to fold into themselves during a crash; they'll be sandwiched between redesigned cars.

July 1

A young woman of many dreams

LaVonda Nicole King had just signed the papers to open a beauty salon in the days before the accident. She was headed to pick up her two young sons when she was killed.

A life of friendship and faith

Dennis Hawkins was so beloved by childern at Whittier Education Center that they often ran up to him on the street. | Video

July 2

Metro failed to detect hazard

Five days before deadly accident, a Metro crew replaced a key piece of equipment designed to prevent crashes. The circuitry malfunctioned -- and no one detected the problem.

Victim played many roles
-- all with a big heart

DuBose, 29, was a caregiver, Christian and doting mother of two who loved to dance and sing Anita Baker songs, and a friend who never hesitated to open her heart -- or pocketbook -- to help.

July 3

Missteps in deadly crash's aftermath dull Fenty's luster

Following the deadliest crash in Metro's history, mayor and staff have been criticized for mishandling information, were noticeably absent from memorials and funderals.

July 4

Six key questions about accident

Federal investigators are trying to determine whether the cause was systemic failure in an aging railroad or a "freak occurrence," as Metro officials claim.

Photo Gallery
Red line crash photo gallery
Post photographers' images from the wreckage and mourning.
Rescuers on scene
Rescue workers go through the wreckage and try to help wounded passengers.
First press conference
Mayor Fenty, Metro General Manager Catoe and others brief reporters on the large emergency response.
The day after
Witnesses and officials describethe scene at Fort Totten.
Friends praise driver
Friends and neighbors share memories of Jeanice McMillan, who helped others in times of need.
Responder's story
Scott Hudson, one of the first firefighters on the scene of the metro rail crash, describes the day.
signal failures
Deborah Hersman of the NTSB explains anomolies in Metro's crash-prevention system.
Ana Fernandez
Family members and friends remember the Red Line crash victim as 'a mother to all of us.'
Dennis Hawkins
Whittier Education Center assistant principal Samuel Johnson Jr. recalls his friend and colleague.
David and Ann Wherley
Hundreds attend memorial service for former commander of D.C. National Guard and his wife..

Commuter information

Gaithersburg, Md.: How does Metro's safety record compare with comparable systems in the U.S.? I don't recall hearing about similar accidents in other systems, but I wouldn't have been paying as much attention to them as I have to this story.

Bob Thomson: It's hard to compare transit systems on just about any issue. But our system is very safe. That's not just a feeling -- the stats back that up. I was just looking over some of the stats that the Metro board is scheduled to look at during its Thursday meeting. (Scheduled before the crash.) Yesterday's incident shows that pretty safe isn't good enough.

Read the transcript. (11 a.m., June 23)

Ex-NTSB director

Wheaton, Md.: Even with "anti-crush" frames, you still have 500,000 lbs at 50 MPH -- a lot of kinetic energy. What do the the "safer" designs do to get rid of that much energy?

Peter Goelz: Most recent designs involve locating structural collision posts that are designed to deflect the penetration of the car.

Read the transcript. (Noon, June 23)

Hospitals' response

Columbia: Doctor, would you explain for us, in general, the process for determining who goes to what hospital in a situation like yesterday's? Thank you.

Janis Orlowski: This decision is made by the triage officer and D.C. EMS at the scene. They also have special managers on a radio system who will route them to specific hospitals depending on the type of injury.

Read the transcript. (2 p.m., June 23)

Congressional delegate

Silver Spring, Md.: Rep. Norton, You raise good points about the need for funding. Is there anything that riders can do to help push our lawmakers to approve funding?

Eleanor Holmes Norton: Thank you. Riders might want to write to the chairman of the Transportation Subcommittee where this matter is pending: Chairman John Olver of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. People can go online to e-mail or phone the office. The number for the transportation subcommittee is 202-225-2141.

Read the transcript. (11 a.m., June 24)

Ongoing commute issues

Baltimore, Md.: To follow up on the first chatter's question, to your knowledge it's not that there are fewer trains in service, it's just the speed limit that is causing the slowness, overcrowding and large gaps between Red Line trains?

Robert Thomson: Normally, there would be 41 trains on the Red Line. I think under current conditions, Metro simply can't get that many trains onto the line at peak periods. This just in: What you experienced today, that will continue at least through Wednesday. Manual control, speed limit of 35 mph. The line will close each night at 10 p.m. between Silver Spring and Fort Totten. The shuttle buses will be in operation.

Read the transcript. (Noon, June 29)

About this package

On Monday, June 22, 2009, a Red Line train crashed into a stationary train between Ft. Totten and Takoma stations after the automatic train control system failed. Nine people died. The articles, multimedia pieces and other content on this page were published in The Washington Post and on washingtonpost.com between June 22 and July 4, 2009. For continuing coverage, read the investigative series by Post reporters Joe Stephens and Lena H. Sun, which revealed rampant safety problems at Metro and a systemic breakdown in oversight.

© The Washington Post Company