Hazardous electrical defects have been found in a light fixture beside an escalator at the Tenleytown subway station in Northwest Washington where a Metro passenger was electrocuted in an accident this month, according to Metro officials.
David O. Cooksey, the transit system's maintenance director, said that a preliminary investigation showed that the fixture "had not been grounded properly." In addition, Cooksey said, insulation was found to have been missing in an electrical device leading to the more-than-400-volt fixture.
The passenger, identified as Victor Teart, 35, was killed in the July 2 incident when he fell on the fluorescent light fixture. Cooksey and other officials said it is unclear what caused Teart to fall. The accident is being investigated by a Metro safety panel and by D.C. police.
Escalators have long been a major cause of accidents in the subway system. According to Metro statistics, more than 100 passengers are injured annually on escalators. Last year, a 3-year-old girl was killed after falling on an escalator at the Minnesota Avenue station in Northeast Washington.
Officials said the Tenleytown accident differed from other escalator incidents because it occurred in a narrow recess beside the escalator rather than on the escalator itself. The recess, which extends along one edge of the escalator, contains fluorescent lights used to illuminate the passageway.
Because of the defects, Cooksey said, a metal frame surrounding the fixture at Tenleytown apparently became electrically charged. The flaws may have posed a hazard for anyone who came in contact with the fixture, including maintenance workers who repair equipment and replace light bulbs, he added.
After the incident, Cooksey said, officials inspected all similar light fixtures. No other fixture was found to be improperly grounded or insulated. Ten fixtures were found to have less serious defects, and these were corrected, he said.
Officials said that passengers normally do not have access to the fixtures. A prankster could improperly reach the fixtures by climbing over an escalator railing, they said, or a rider could fall onto a fixture by reaching too far over a railing to retrieve a lost coin or Farecard.
Authorities said that Teart had no fixed address and that his body has not been claimed from the D.C. medical examiner's office. Laboratory tests and an autoposy report had not been completed, they said.
In a related development, Metro officials announced plans to provide more frequent reports on safety issues as a result of a recent Washington Post story on a subway fire in November. Safety reports are to be issued every three months instead of once a year.