Cracked Rail Snarls Red Line Service

A broken segment of rail at the Fort Totten Metro station created about a half-hour delay yesterday morning in both directions of the Red Line, transit officials said.

The cracked rail, discovered just before 6:30 a.m., forced trains to operate on a single track between Fort Totten and Takoma Park until about 7:45 a.m., when the rail was patched temporarily and service resumed on both tracks. Speeds were lowered from 42 mph to 35 mph, however, Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said.

Work crews were expected to repair the rail last night, and normal service was planned for this morning, Metro officials said. The crack occurred where two sections of track had been welded together in June. The welding was given an ultrasound inspection in August, and no flaws were detected.

Metro track is checked twice a year with ultrasound equipment designed to detect weaknesses and flaws not visible to humans. In addition, all rail is visually inspected twice a week by track walkers. Metro officials said track workers inspected the rail Sunday.

"This type of situation happens without warning," said Steven Feil, Metro's chief operating officer for rail.

Train Derails at Metro Va. Storage Yard

Transit officials yesterday were investigating the derailment of a six-car train at Metro's West Falls Church rail yard Friday evening. The train hit two light poles and grazed a private automobile parked at the yard, transit officials said. Two cars of the six-car train came off the tracks about 7:45 p.m. as the train was moving from the main railroad into the yard.

The train operator, the only person aboard, was not injured. The two cars that derailed, the newest in Metro's fleet, were manufactured by CAF Inc., a Spanish company. The operator was a 16-year veteran of Metro. Transit officials spent yesterday assessing damage to the train and track and trying to determine why the rail cars came off the track, Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said. About 1,700 feet of track was affected by the derailment, she said.


St. E's Patient Sues Over Self-Mutilation

A mentally ill man who gouged out his eyes at St. Elizabeths Hospital last year has filed a $20 million lawsuit against the District alleging that he was not properly supervised.

Frank B. Harris Jr., 52, who has lived at the public psychiatric hospital since 1973, also accused staff members of improperly giving him medication and physically restraining him for months. Harris gouged out his eyes March 19, 2003, while under "one-on-one" supervision, which is the highest level of monitoring at a psychiatric hospital. He has been committed since he was found not guilty by reason of insanity in two nonviolent property crimes.

The lawsuit was filed on Harris's behalf in D.C. Superior Court by his legal guardian, Janice Motley. District officials said that the suit is being reviewed by the D.C. attorney general's office and that it would be premature to comment.

3 Names Forwarded to Fill Appellate Seat

A D.C. Superior Court judge and two Justice Department lawyers have been named as potential candidates to fill an opening on the D.C. Court of Appeals, the highest local court in the District.

The D.C. Judicial Nomination Commission, which makes recommendations to the White House for D.C. judgeships, selected the three. John M. Steadman has announced that he will retire from the appellate bench but hopes to stay on as a senior judge.

Named by the commission are Judge Noel A. Kramer, head of Superior Court's criminal division; John R. Fisher, chief of appeals for the U.S. attorney's office; and Roslyn A. Mazer, special investigative counsel in the office of oversight and review for the Justice Department inspector general.

President Bush has 60 days in which to select one of the three as the nominee. A Senate confirmation process would follow.


Malpractice Insurance Protest Postponed

A group of Washington County physicians said yesterday that they would postpone a plan to see patients only on an emergency basis after meeting with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) about medical malpractice issues.

The tactic, which was to start Nov. 15, was decided at a meeting of the medical staff of Washington County Hospital and was said to involve the majority of specialists in the area.

Ehrlich said he asked the doctors to work with his task force, which is crafting proposals to address the escalating cost of malpractice insurance. He said he understood that the doctors' "patience is not limitless."

The four physicians who met with Ehrlich said they did not have the authority to tell other doctors what to do but would strongly advocate that they continue seeing patients.

Ehrlich and leaders of the General Assembly have said a special session on the issue is warranted, but they have not agreed on a package of reforms.

State Tries to Bar Groups from Bear Case

The state has moved to bar two wildlife protection groups from joining a lawsuit challenging a proposed bear hunt this fall in Western Maryland.

The Department of Natural Resources filed documents in Prince George's County Circuit Court arguing that the Fund for Animals and the Humane Society of the United States lack standing to pursue their claims against the state.

The groups and three individuals sued the state Sept. 27 seeking to block Maryland's first bear hunt in 51 years. They maintained that DNR used flawed science and violated statutory deadlines in authorizing the hunt, which is scheduled to begin Oct. 25. No hearing date has been set.

In court papers filed Friday, the state agency said the organizations should be dropped from the case because neither has a property interest separate and apart from its members that is affected by the hunting regulations. Two of the three other plaintiffs have property interests in Garrett County.


2nd Animal Dies in Virginia Zoo Moat

A white rhinoceros fell into a moat at the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk and died Sunday, the second time in two months that an animal died in the watery barrier meant to keep animals in exhibit areas.

Exactly what happened to the 32-year-old rhino died is unclear.

On Aug. 8, a 2-day-old gazelle was found dead, apparently after wandering into the moat overnight.

"Eradication, then, is not going to happen. We're going to have to manage them."

-- Julia Dixon, spokeswoman for the Va. Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, on news that snakeheads are breeding in the region. -- Page B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Henri E. Cauvin, Theola S. Labbe, Lyndsey Layton and John Wagner and the Associated Press.