The supervisor and train operator involved in the Jan. 13 subway derailment that killed three people have been suspended without pay and barred from returning to any job involving train operations, Metro officials said yesterday.
James E. Davis, 49, a supervisor, was suspended for 90 working days, as of Wednesday, and operator Michael J. Greene, 40, was suspended for 60 working days.
Greene has not worked since the accident, a Metro spokesman said, because of neck and back injuries apparently resulting from the crash. Greene's suspension won't begin until a doctor determines that he is able to work again; in the meantime, he is collecting workers' compensation, the spokesman said. Davis has been working since the accident, but in a nonoperating assignment.
The two men, who have the right to appeal their suspensions, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Richard S. Page, Metro general manager, said that officials decided to suspend David and Greene rather than dismiss them outright because of the circumstances of the accident.
"This included the good record that these employes had, the ambiguous instructions they received that night from the control room, the training program and the human factor," Page said. "What happened that night will be on the minds of those two men, and in some ways the easy course would have been to make them the scapegoats and to say goodbye. We didn't want to do that."
Disciplinary action against other Metro personnel involved in the crash is being withheld until additional investigations have been completed, Page said.
Metro's in-house investigation of the crash concluded that a wide range of employes committed a series of dangerous errors before and after the accident. The four workers singled out by name in the report were Davis, who was cited for 11 errors; Greene, five errors; Kenneth G. Banks, a radio operator in the control room, two errors, and Paul T. Hobgood Jr., an assistant superintendent in the control room, one error.
The derailment, which occurred 30 minutes after an Air Florida jetliner crashed into the Potomac River during a heavy snowstorm, was the first fatal accident for Metrorail since the system opened in 1976.
About 1,200 people were on the Orange Line train headed to New Carrollton when it derailed while backing up from an improperly closed rail switch between the Smithsonian and Federal Triangle stations about 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 13.
The lead car's front wheels entered track normally used to switch trains between the tunnel's two parallel tracks, but the rear wheels remained on the other track. When the supervisor began backing the train up, the car was dragged diagonally for about 150 feet before being crushed against a concrete pillar between the tracks.
The immediate causes of the accident, according to a Metro report last month, were the failure of Davis properly to examine and close the malfunctioning switch, the failure of Greene to push the emergency stop button, and the failure of the operation control center to pinpoint the train's position and take the appropriate blocking action before allowing Davis to pull back the train.
As a rail supervisor, Davis has been in a Metro job classification that pays $25,800 to $30,800 a year. When his 90-day suspension without pay ends, he will be reinstated in a job for which he is found by Metro to be qualified. Although he is barred from ever having a rail supervisory job again, he may be eligible for some other supervisory role that pays just as much as his old position, Metro officials said.
Greene was earning $460 a week, in keeping with the union wage scale for train operators. Under the workers' compensation rules, he receives two-thirds of his salary on a tax-free basis. Metro said that works out to $290.40 a week.
Metro acted within three days of the accident to change and clarify some procedures aimed at avoiding any further mishaps. This included the reissuance of basic instructions to operators telling them to stop when there is a red light regardless of any other instructions they may receive.
"We also reemphasized the rules for running trains in the reverse direction--another violation that occurred that night (Jan. 13) because we didn't follow existing procedures," said Page.
Other important steps taken by Metro, Page said, include the designating of one single supervisor to be in charge of the central control room; telling personnel to assume the worst possible case if anything unusual occurs; requiring that malfunctioning switches be reported in writing and then having a checkoff procedure asserting that they have been repaired properly, and instituting a procedure to prevent electric power from coming on in areas where there are abnormal operations.