A Metro train pulled into the Woodley Park Station shortly after two trains crashed on the opposite track Wednesday, and the operator opened the doors, allowing passengers into a station still containing the dust and debris from the wreck across the platform.
Metro policy states that a train operator who encounters a dangerous scene at a station should keep the doors closed, radio headquarters and await instructions if time permits, said Lisa Farbstein, a spokeswoman for the transit agency. She said she could not discuss the specifics of Wednesday's events because they are under investigation.
The inbound train entered the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan Station several minutes after the 12:49 p.m. accident, according to a Washington Post editor who was in the station at the time of the crash. About a dozen passengers exited the train and left the station.
The National Transportation Safety Board will consider the actions of Metro operators and supervisors as it continues its investigation of the crash, which occurred when a train with no passengers aboard rolled backward through a tunnel and struck a six-car train that had just picked up passengers in the station.
Federal investigators promised a complete review of Metro's safety.
"We still don't know if it was a human or mechanical issue," Debbie Hersman, a member of the safety board, said of the crash. "We're concerned about everything."
Twenty people were injured in the crash, which disrupted service on the Red Line, Metro's busiest.
As commuters endured further delays and crowded trains yesterday, transit workers were removing the damaged cars from the Woodley Park Station. Metro trains still were sharing a single track near where the wreck occurred.
Riders on the platform at Woodley Park during yesterday morning's commute watched as a yellow machine -- a "prime mover" -- pried open the front of a wrecked Metro car as if it were a tuna can, to begin removing it.
Metro must clear the last cars and test the track and other components at the station before it can resume normal service on the line.
At the same time, track work this weekend in preparation for the opening of the Red Line's New York Avenue-Florida Avenue-Gallaudet University station will require closing of the Rhode Island Avenue and Brookland-CUA stations until 5 a.m. Monday.
Investigators are continuing to focus on braking systems to find out why the runaway train failed to stop before hitting the train in the station.
The NTSB will be contacting equipment manufacturers as well as inspecting the equipment on the train cars involved. Officials also requested a timeline of Metro's emergency response and asked to review dispatch records from an hour before to an hour after the incident.
The NTSB interviewed Metro control supervisors and other managers yesterday.
The board also will also take a broader look at Metro operations and safety procedures, NTSB spokesman Terry Williams said, to see whether its policies or practices were contributing factors in the crash, which follows a string of mishaps and problems at the transit agency.
During the NTSB's probe, investigators will speak with operators, passengers and Metro officials and review records of the 72 hours preceding the accident.
The agency will also look at Metro's safety policies, training and procedures and the work history of the employees involved in the accident.
"We know the system didn't work, and we're trying to find out why it didn't work," Williams said.
Investigators released details late Thursday from an interview with Lamont Lewis, the operator of the unoccupied train in the tunnel between the Woodley Park and Cleveland Park stations that slid backward at 30 mph into a train carrying 70 passengers.
Lewis, who has been a train operator for seven months, left the Woodley Park Station two minutes ahead of the other train, heading north to Cleveland Park, on a stretch of track that is on a 3.7-degree uphill grade, Hersman said.
Lewis was operating the train manually, a normal procedure for trains that are not in regular service. The train was on its way to the Shady Grove rail yard.
Lewis told investigators that soon after he left the station, he heard an alarm alerting him that the train was traveling too fast for that section of track. When he applied braking power, he did not get the response he anticipated, he told investigators.
"At some point, he said, he stopped going forward and started going backward," Hersman said.
"He then applied full brake but did not stop. He then put it in full power, but there was no response from the train. He then released the control handle, which is supposed to stop movement. Then he hit the red emergency 'mushroom' button, and then he felt a jerk."
Two minutes and 30 seconds after passing through the station, Lewis's train rolled back into it, struck the stopped train and came to a stop after the shell of its rear car climbed onto the roof of the second train.
Hersman said that "none of these things are confirmed facts, because there is no event recorder, we cannot verify these things. It is [Lewis's] representation of events."
Yesterday, transit workers had removed 10 of the 12 cars involved in the accident from the Woodley Park Station and towed them to the Brentwood rail yard in Northeast Washington, where they will be examined
The cars eventually will be inspected for damage and, if possible, returned to service, Farbstein said.
Once the damaged train car was cut open in preparation for removing it from Woodley Park, commuters gawked at the seats set neatly inside -- as if nothing had happened.
"It's disheartening how easy it's broken apart," said Risa Schecter, a Metro rider. "Who is to say it can't happen again?"
Riders appeared to have come to terms with the situation, however, reporting that the delays yesterday morning were at least bearable.
"It seems a little smoother," said Schecter, 28, a Red Line rider.
"We were 20 minutes behind, but it wasn't too bad," Schecter added.
Metro sent three trains in a row in one direction through the single-track area, then three in the other direction.
Some trains were too full to stop at stations, and some passengers were unable to squeeze inside later trains that did stop.
Liza Corbin abandoned an effort to get on a too-crowded downtown-bound train.
"Cramming into a train is not worth it," said the 25-year-old District resident. "I figure it's Friday, and I can afford to be late to work."
Staff writers Michel duCille, Steven Ginsberg and Lyndsey Layton contributed to this report.
Pieces of a rail car lie on the platform at Woodley Park before being hauled away. Officials will test the track before service can resume.