D.C. Metrorail Suffers Worst Crash In Its History
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Investigators here in Washington are trying to determine why safety precautions failed in a deadly train accident during the evening rush hour yesterday. Seven people were killed and dozens more injured when one subway train car slammed into the back of another. NPR's Katia Dunn reports.
KATIA DUNN: The wreck is the deadliest in the metro rails history. It happened around 5:00 when one train slammed into another that was stopped. The force tore open cars and threw train seats onto the track. At the chaotic scene on Monday night, local officials were concerned with rescuing passengers and finding the cause of the wreck. Jim Graham is a Washington councilman.
Mr. JIM GRAHAM (Councilman): The first car on that train is demolished and squashed and that's what's leading to some of the lack of information we have, because somebody has got to sort through all of that. And so it's a horrendous, horrendous situation.
DUNN: Officials hope that clues will begin to emerge as they pick through the mangled mess. The metro rail has a number of built-in safety systems to prevent trains from colliding. Investigators will look at those safeguards as well as other possible factors that may have led to the crash.
Dozens of people were on the trains when they collided. NPR employee Jasmine Gars was one of them.
JASMINE GARS: It was like we rammed into a concrete wall. If you can imagine the train at full speed coming to an absolute sudden halt.
DUNN: Gars and others were thrown to the floor as the second train, the one they were on, jackknifed and landed on top of the first. Passengers had to pry the door open to escape.
Rescue workers used ladders to reach some victims trapped inside the cars. Firefighters carried the passengers with more serious injuries out on stretchers.
Sabrina Webber stood with her neighbors and watched the rescue effort. She said she was in her house when it happened. She heard a tremendous boom and ran out the door.
Ms. SABRINA WEBBER: We saw one train on top of another train. Literally piled on top. The police and EMS had Jaws of Life coming out, peeling people out of the train.
DUNN: Valencio Coppen(ph) lives a few houses away from the site of the wreck.
Mr. VALENCIO COPPEN: And that's usually the train that I take. I just so happened to be working out at 4:00 and well, you know, kind of grateful for that. I definitely dodged a bullet.
DUNN: Among the people killed was a female train conductor. The Red Cross was also at the scene setting up mental health support for family and community members.
The National Transportation Safety Board has assembled a team to investigate the crash. Officials say they don't expect to have conclusive information for at least a few days.
Katia Dunn, NPR News, Washington.
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