Saturday, November 6, 2004

Metro officials yesterday restored full service on the Red Line following a subway crash that injured 20 persons and caused three days of delays.

Trains began running on the north and south tracks at 10 a.m. at the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan station.

“We’re pretty happy about that, as are our customers,” said Lisa Farbstein, Metro spokeswoman.

Trains were sent through the station, in the 2600 block of Connecticut Avenue NW, to test the track before regular service was resumed.

On Thursday night, crews began separating the two trains, then took them from the northbound track to Metro’s Brentwood maintenance yard in Northeast, where inspections will continue.

A Metro employee yesterday afternoon reported no problems or delays.

Trains had been running on a single track through the Adams Morgan station while the National Transportation and Safety Board investigated the accident. The agency concluded its on-scene investigation Thursday night.

The accident occurred Wednesday at 12:49 p.m. when an unoccupied, six-car train rolled backward and smashed into the front of a six-car train that was picking up and dropping off passengers at the station platform. About 70 passengers were on board. The injured were treated and released at area hospitals.

The damage was estimated at $1.5 million.

Officials have taken statements from both train operators and have focused on possible equipment malfunction or human error. However, the full investigation will include looking at Metro records, interviews with employees at Metro’s operations center, the examination of crash debris and the trains’ rollback protection system and accident reconstruction at the Brentwood yard. Investigators do not think a faulty track contributed to the accident.

“Right now we cannot say there is one thing that caused this accident,” Debbie Hersman, a transportation board member, said Thursday night. “But we can say the system failed. This should not have happened.”

Officials said they might need several months to complete a final report.

The driver of the unoccupied car, Lamont Lewis, told investigators he had left the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan station and was going north toward the Shady Grove rail yard. When he reached a slight incline before the Cleveland Park station, the next stop, the speed-warning sounded and he slowed the train. When he tried to accelerate again, Mr. Lewis told investigators, the train instead began rolling backward before it hit the other train.

It remained unclear exactly how fast the train was going because it does not have a data-recording box, like those in airplanes that help investigators determine key information following an accident. However, the train hit with such force that its rear car came to rest atop the front car of the occupied train.

Mr. Lewis said he applied three types of brakes to stop the train. He has worked for the agency since 1997 and has been operating trains for seven months.

The other train’s operator, Calvert Sawyers, 58, alerted some passengers by yelling for them to exit the train. He was among those taken to a hospital. Mr. Sawyer began working for Metro in 1978 and has been operating trains for eight years.

Miss Hersman said the operators have passed a blood-alcohol test.

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