- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2002

One of Metro's newest subway cars last month trapped a Cheverly woman in its doors, then dragged her along the subway station platform before she broke free and lost consciousness.
Li J. Yu, 58, was taken to Howard University Hospital, where she was treated for injuries to her head, arms and legs in the Jan. 9 incident, one of nearly three dozen last month involving failures of the new subway cars' doors and propulsion systems.
"She said, 'I thought I was going to die,'" said Jennifer Wu, who lives with Mrs. Yu in the 2500 block of Crest Avenue in Cheverly. "She was so scared. She didn't know what was happening to her. It all happened so fast."
Metro reports obtained by The Washington Times showed that a "train moved with customer caught in train doors" but did not explain why the train dragged Mrs. Yu the length of the platform at the Gallery Place Metrorail Station. The trains are designed to alert operators when a door is ajar and to halt if someone is caught in a door.
A Metro investigation into the incident determined that a door had malfunctioned. Metro spokesman Ray Feldmann said, without elaborating, that the train's operator was disciplined. He said the "minor malfunction" uncovered in the investigation was repaired and that the train was returned to service about two weeks later.
Metro workers and sources familiar with the accident said the door's wiring had been modified from its original specifications and did not match the approved diagram.
"I know there was a minor malfunction that prevented the door from giving an 'all doors closed' sign," Mr. Feldmann said. "I don't know about modifications."
Mr. Feldmann said that although the transit agency has had "recurring problems" with its new 5000 Series rail cars, crowding on the Green Line has pressured Metro to keep the cars running. He said he could not comment on 25 of the 34 reported malfunctions of new cars last month.
"We would not put a car out there unless we felt it was safe. We said that time and time again," Mr. Feldmann said. "That does not mean they will not malfunction."
Miss Wu said Mrs. Yu, who immigrated from China 12 years ago and spoke little English, was on her way home from work at the laundry at the Red Roof Inn in Chinatown when she boarded the Green Line train at Gallery Place about 6:15 p.m. on Jan. 9. The train was full, and a man in front of Mrs. Yu would not move to let her into the car.
Mrs. Yu decided to get off the train and catch the next one, but as she was leaving, the doors trapped her and the train started to move.
"Half of her body was still inside the door. She pulled so hard," Miss Wu said. "She does not remember how she got free. She was laying on the floor, and all these people were around screaming and yelling."
Metro workers said Mrs. Yu would have been crushed between the train and the platform wall or would have fallen under the train if she had been dragged into the Gallery Place tunnel.
A Metro station manager called for an ambulance, and Mrs. Yu was taken to Howard University Hospital. She was unable to work for about two weeks.
Miss Wu said she and Mrs. Yu contacted Metro about paying Mrs. Yu's $1,300 emergency room bill, which they received Jan. 20. "They said don't call them. They said they would contact us," said Miss Wu. "We're still waiting."
Mr. Feldmann said a separate investigation usually is begun when a medical claim is made.
Metro records showed that Mrs. Yu was attempting to board a train composed of six of the 5000 Series subway cars. The cars, manufactured by CAF of Madrid, have been so plagued with malfunctions that Metro has told the company to fix the problems before sending any new cars.
Metro has been using the cars on the Green Line to reduce crowding. The ridership on the Green Line, which expanded a year ago, was about twice what Metro expected.
Metro has ordered 192 cars from CAF at a cost of $220 million. The transit agency aimed to have 18 cars in service when the Green Line expanded but had to accept only four of the cars on a tentative basis in June. Metro has continued to accept the cars since then.
The Times first reported problems with the cars in September 2000, about four months before the first of the cars were to be delivered. Metro workers and sources familiar with the cars said the propulsion systems, dynamic brakes and doors were faulty.
Metro has promised that all the cars' systems will be "safety certified" before they are put into use.
Miss Wu said Metro should not be transporting passengers on cars that officials know have problems.
"They should not be allowed to use them if they don't work properly," she said. "Someone could get hurt or killed."


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