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D.C. train crash death toll at 9

A MARC passenger train passes by the scene of a Metro train accident just outside the Fort Totten Metro station in Washington on June 22, 2009. A metro train crashed into the back of another stopped train. Nine passengers are confirmed dead and over 70 injured. (UPI Photo/Kevin Dietsch)
A MARC passenger train passes by the scene of a Metro train accident just outside the Fort Totten Metro station in Washington on June 22, 2009. A metro train crashed into the back of another stopped train. Nine passengers are confirmed dead and over 70 injured. (UPI Photo/Kevin Dietsch) | License Photo

WASHINGTON, June 23 (UPI) -- The investigation into the deadly Washington Metro train collision Tuesday focused on equipment meant to keep trains separated on the tracks.

The Washington Post reported nine people died and 80 people were injured in the Monday evening rush-hour crash of one train into the rear of another train that had stopped short of the station. The second train struck the first train so forcefully that one car from the moving train landed on top of the stopped train.

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Officials said special cranes were brought to the crash site at the above-ground Fort Totten station to remove debris layer by layer while crews searched between layers for passengers, CNN reported.

The Post reported federal officials said the operator of the Metro train that hit the stationary train apparently had activated its emergency brakes.

Debbie Hersman of the National Transportation Safety Board said the emergency brake button was depressed, and the tracks showed evidence the brakes had engaged. Investigators also said the striking train was in automatic mode, which means onboard computers should have controlled its speed and stopped it before it got too close to the stationary train.

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The Metro was designed with a computerized signal system that is supposed to prevent trains from colliding, the Post reported. The system is supposed to detect the position of trains to maintain a safe distance. If the trains get too close, the computers automatically apply the brakes, stopping the trains.

NTSB inspectors said they had warned Metro officials that older trains -- such as the one that struck the stopped train -- either should be retrofitted with updated safety features or retired. The older train was scheduled to be retired in 2012.

In a statement, U.S. President Barack Obama said: "Michelle and I were saddened by the terrible accident in northeast Washington, D.C., today. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends affected by this tragedy. I want to thank the brave first responders who arrived immediately to save lives."

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