- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 18, 2007

D.C. officials pledged yesterday to find ways to stop the increasing number of accidents in which residents have been struck by Metro buses after an accident the day before in Southeast that killed a young woman.

The accident marked the seventh pedestrian killed in accidents involving Metro buses in the past nine months.

“This is far too many,” said D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat and Metro board member.

Mr. Graham was joined by Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr.; a Metropolitan Police Department official; Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat; and Council member Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat.

“We need to move with a sense of urgency to do all we can do to prevent these accidents,” Mr. Barry said.

On Saturday, Angel C. Walters, 21, was hit and killed by a Metro bus at 11:10 p.m. in the 1300 block of Congress Street Southeast as she exited the rear driver-side door of a vehicle with her arms full of packages.

Officials said because of the ongoing police investigation they could not comment on whether the woman or the driver had been drinking, or whether the woman had stepped over or slipped on ice.

Assistant Police Chief Alton Bigelow said brake marks indicated the bus was traveling 23 mph to 27 mph in a 25-mph zone. The driver has been placed on leave until the investigation is complete.

The driver, who has not been identified, was hired in 2005 and was involved in one previous non-preventable accident that was not his fault, Chief Bigelow said.

He also said that stretch of Congress Street was free of ice, though ice on sidewalks still exists in many communities of the District, which is causing pedestrians to walk in the streets.

“We got the streets cleared as far as we could,” said Mr. Fenty, but much ice and snow remains, and “it is a complete hazard.”

In each of the seven fatal accidents, visibility was reduced in the evening or early morning hours, officials said.

There have been 13 pedestrian fatalities as a result of Metrobus accidents, including the one Saturday, in the past seven years, a Metro spokesman said. Nine of them occurred in the past 26 months four in 2007, three in 2006 and two in 2005.

Mr. Catoe, who took office as manager last month, vowed to implement more safety measures after an accident Wednesday evening in which a Metro bus hit and killed two Alexandria women at Pennsylvania Avenue and Seventh Street Northwest. He ordered bus operators and supervisors to meet for at least one or two days annually to discuss and emphasize pedestrian safety.

The Metro board approved that plan and another to create a five-year safety program for Metro drivers and personnel.

Victor Kolako, 53, the driver in that case, was charged with two counts of negligent homicide and placed on leave, Metro officials said.

To reduce accidents, Metro recently began testing ultrasonic technology on its buses that would alert drivers to nearby obstacles. The devices have been installed on 50 buses in Northern Virginia.

The agency has also began installing strobe lights on buses last month to help pedestrians spot buses sooner. It is the first transit agency in the country to put such lights on city buses, Metro officials said.

Four other pedestrians were killed in non-bus-related accidents since Jan. 16.

Carla Gonzalez, 24, of the 1400 block of Spring Road Northwest, was killed the night of Jan. 15 after running in front of a Metro bus at 16th Street and Park Road Northwest.

The morning of Feb. 9, J’lin Tyler, 6, was killed at Sargent Road and Emerson Street Northeast as he ran into the street on his way to Bunker Hill Elementary School.

On Feb. 7, a man died after being struck by a cement mixer on New York Avenue Northwest. Police said the man was trying to direct traffic around a tractor-trailer that was backing up because it was too tall to fit through the Third Street tunnel.

On Feb. 3, Gary Scott Phillips, 58, of the 200 block of Gallatin Street Northwest, was killed while walking across New Hampshire Avenue Northwest in the Petworth area when hit by a bicyclist.

The city police department, which keeps statistics on traffic fatalities, was unable to provide recent statistics on pedestrian fatalities.

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