The National Transportation Safety Board yesterday concluded that Metro management contributed to the Orange Line accident early this year that killed three passengers and injured 25 others.
Board members concurred with previous investigators who found the Metro supervisor and the operator of the wrecked train at fault for the Jan. 13 derailment, but adamantly placed underlying responsibility squarely on Metro management's shoulders.
Board member Francis McAdams, who had pushed unsuccessfully for a stronger statement of responsibility, said Metro management "directly caused the accident."
The board specifically criticized Metro management's "failure to put into place an adequate program of initial and recurrent training" for Metrorail operating personnel and "its failure to adopt adequate rules and procedures for safe operation of trains in the manual mode."
Although some members wanted to be much more precise, the board did not detail what it meant by "management," saying only that it was synonymous with "the institution."
In its report on the accident, the board determined that the primary cause was the failure of the Metrorail Operations Control Center to stop movement of trains through a track crossover near the Smithsonian station and the center's failure to detect problems with the computer safeguards. The board also noted the failure of the on-scene rail supervisor and the train operator to recognize the train's derailment and apply emergency brakes.
In other action, the board made public a list of recommendations for improved safety standards to Metro. The roughly two dozen recommendations closely resembled those made by Metro's own in-house team of investigators and those made by the American Public Transit Association.
The most emphasis was placed on improved training of Metro personnel and providing emergency exit information for passengers.
Metro officials declined to comment on the safety board's criticism of the transit authority's management. A Metro spokesman said the board's recommendations would be thoroughly considered but declined to say whether any action was imminent.
Carlton Sickles, chairman of the Metro Board accident committee, said, "It [the accident] happened because of the specific events on that day." He said, however, that the board realized problems within the system contributed to the train wreck.
"We are reviewing a series of 200 recommendations made by our own investigators and other groups," said Sickles. He said some of the recommendations being considered had already been submitted by the safety board after a preliminary investigation.
Sickles said Metro has already begun to act upon some of them. "We felt the heat and saw the light," he said. Sickles said more supervisors have been added. He also said refresher training has been made available to personnel at the Operations Control Center.