- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2002

Two Prince George's County Council members, responding to a report in The Washington Times about a woman who was trapped in a malfunctioning train door and dragged down a platform, said yesterday that Metro should take its new subway cars off the tracks until the recurring problems are fixed.
"They need to be removed until they have a clean bill of health. You can't jeopardize your riders because you got a bad deal. They have safety issues here," said council member Audrey Scott, Bowie Republican and chairman of the council's Transportation Committee.
"They should get them off the tracks before they start killing people," said council member Thomas Hendershott, New Carrollton Democrat.
The Times reported yesterday that Li J. Yu, 58, of Cheverly got caught in the doors of a 5000 series subway car on Jan. 9. Mrs. Yu originally had half of her body hanging outside the car and had to start running when the train began moving.
After being dragged along the length of the Gallery Place platform, she worked her body free and fell, hitting her head. Mrs. Yu was hospitalized and still is afraid to ride the subway alone.
The car she was in was one of the 34 new subway cars purchased from a Spanish firm, CAF of Madrid. The Times found Metro documents that show 25 of the 34 cars had propulsion and door malfunctions that put them out of service in January.
The cars are used exclusively on the Green Line, which runs through the District and Prince George's County.
A train with four 5000 series cars had to be taken out of service Tuesday at 5:40 p.m. at the Waterfront station because of door malfunctions.
Christopher Zimmerman, Metro Board chairman and chairman of the Arlington County Board, said he needs answers to questions about the 5000 series cars before he can decide what needs to be done. He said he is not certain whether the Jan. 9 accident was isolated or was indicative of a trend of the cars' performance.
Metro employees and sources familiar with the 5000 series cars said the wiring on the car involved in the Jan. 9 accident had been modified and did not match the approved wiring diagram. The cars were supposed to be "safety certified" before being placed in service, and Metro officials have not said whether the modifications were made before or after certification.
Mr. Zimmerman said that after the accident, officials found that door circuits were not properly wired, and they inspected all of the other cars
"We need answers. I don't think there is information available to raise the broader issue [of removing all the cars from service]," Mr. Zimmerman said. "One of the basic questions is: 'Are these certified?' I don't know the answer to that question. It is important procedures are being followed and that anything we are running on the system meets safety specifications.
"It [the accident involving Mrs. Yu] is disturbing to everyone. It sure would be terrifying," he said.
He said the Metro Board will discuss the accident during today's meeting.
Fred Goodine, Metro's Safety Department director, said he has been conducting an investigation and found that the circuit board for the door was faulty. He said the flaw appears to have come from CAF's Madrid plant.
He said that the focus of his investigation is how the faulty circuit board got through CAF quality control and was installed on the train. He said he has no evidence to show that the failure was anything other than an isolated incident.
"There is no reason now for me to believe that we have a fleetwide problem," Mr. Goodine said.
Ted Williams, an attorney who represents Mrs. Yu, said yesterday that he will conduct an independent investigation.
"We are confident there was negligence on the part of Metro that could have caused Mrs. Yu to lose her life," Mr. Williams said. "Clearly, Metro should remove these cars. They should inspect them. My belief is if they continue to use these cars, it could result in someone losing their life."
Cheryl Johnson, Metro spokeswoman, said Metro apologized for taking so long getting back to Mrs. Yu. The transit agency was trying to contact her yesterday and intends to pay her $1,300 hospital bill.
Jennifer Wu, who lives with Mrs. Yu, said the Cheverly woman was glad to see Metro taking action.
"She is much happier now. She is relieved someone cares," Miss Wu said.
D.C. Council member David Catania, a member of the Metro Board, said the board would investigate the Jan. 9 accident and the other mechanical failures on the 5000 series cars.
Mr. Catania, at-large Republican and chairman of the council's Public Services Committee, said board members have been told repeatedly that the cars have been fixed, but it appears the problems remain. He said he did not know whether Metro should take the cars out of service.
"We have been told that through remedial actions the cars have been brought up to speed. It is apparent they have not," Mr. Catania said. "I am troubled by the high degree of failures. We have to raise the question before someone is seriously hurt."
Decatur Trotter, a Metro Board member who represents Prince George's County, also said he had been assured that the 5000 series cars were being fixed before being put into service.
"It was my impression they were testing them and they would not put them on the road unless they passed the tests," said Mr. Trotter, a former Maryland state senator. "The doors are supposed to open and close automatically and are supposed to open when someone is [caught] in there. According to the general manager and the people he designates, they are working," Mr. Trotter said.
Mr. Trotter and other board members said they were not aware of the accident until it was reported in The Times.
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.


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