Washington, DC subway crash kills seven, injures scores

Two Metrorail trains collided Monday at the height of Washington, DC's evening rush hour, killing seven people and injuring scores more in the worst-ever accident in the US capital's subway system, officials said.


AFP - Hours after the deadliest-ever train crash in Washington's subway system, investigators looked for answers Tuesday into the cause of the collision that claimed seven lives and injured scores of passengers.

Washington mayor Adrian Fenty held a press conference to update the public on the investigation into Monday's crash that injured 76 passengers, in addition to the fatalities.

"Yesterday, we had a number of six confirmed dead. We are changing that number to seven confirmed dead -- as was discussed yesterday, by far the deadliest crash in the history of the Washington, DC Metro transit system," Fenty said Tuesday during a press conference to update the public on the aftermath of the collision.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were proceeding with a painstaking probe of the evening rush hour accident, when one Metro train slammed into another, turning a routine commute into a nightmarish calamity.

Fenty said two additional patients remained hospitalized in critical condition.

He added that authorities were poised to start contacting relatives and loved ones of the confirmed victims and that fire and rescue workers labored through the night at the crash scene he described as "harrowing."

Hundreds of fire and emergency medical personnel were dispatched to the crash scene, searching the wreckage for additional victims hours after the accident.

Early Tuesday, the lingering effects of the crash were still evident, as authorities cordoned off a large swath of northeast Washington near the crash scene to cars, and closed off stretches of the rail system, creating morning rush hour delays.

On Monday, Fenty suggested that the moving train may have been traveling too fast when it collided into the stationary one on an above-ground portion along the heavily-used Red Line.

The collision involving the two six-compartment trains took place at 5:02 pm (2102 GMT) near the Fort Totten Metro station, according to officials from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).

Rescue teams on Monday were seen carrying injured passengers on stretchers down the tracks as dozens of stunned passengers who had been safely evacuated from the train, stood by the tracks close to the collision site.

Survivors -- some limping and clearly hurt -- were helped from train carriages by rescue workers.

For passenger Abra Jeffers, the crash was a harrowing welcome to the nation's capital, where he was heading home from his first day of work Monday.

"I was on the train that got hit. I thought it was an explosion," Jeffers, 25, told AFP. "I thought it was like the train bombings in London. There was smoke and dust everywhere."

Among the dead was the female operator of the second train that rammed into the first as it awaited orders to proceed along the tracks, Catoe said.

"The next train came up behind it and for reasons we do not know plowed into the back of the train," he added.

President Barack Obama said in a statement that his "thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends affected by this tragedy."

The catastrophic failure -- whether the result of human error or system malfunction -- will raise serious questions among investigators just nine months after the last major US train crash.

Last September, 25 people were killed when the conductor of a commuter train in Los Angeles was sending text messages on his mobile phone while at the controls.

In January 1982, three people died after a derailment on the system, which the Metro authorities said was the only other time an accident had resulted in fatalities.

In 2004 two trains collided causing what the Metro called "some minor injuries."

Thousands of government employees ride the metro into work each day in a five-line rail system that travels into the suburbs in the states of Maryland and Virginia.

Train passenger Jody Wickett told CNN she was texting a friend when she was sent hurtling through the air of the rail car.

"We felt like we hit a bump and about five or 10 seconds later, the train just came to a complete halt and we went flying," Wickett said.

"I went in there to try and help and (there was) debris and people pinned under and in between the two cars. We were just trying to get them out and help them as much as possible, pulling back the metal and what-not."

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