- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 23, 2009

UPDATED:

WASHINGTON — In the worst disaster in Metro history, at least six people died and 70 injured Monday when a Metro train crashed with another train during rush hour between the Takoma and Fort Totten stations near the Maryland and District of Columbia border.

More than 200 firefighters from departments throughout the metro area were still searching for casualties in the wreckage more than three hours hours after the crash occurred about 5:02 p.m. One train was resting on top of the second “piggyback-style.”

Metro officials said one of the fatalities was a female Metro worker.

“I saw [a dead body] covered with a sheet and I saw the other people with neck braces,” said Latasha Gray, 27. “I just thought it was something going on at the warehouse. It sounded like an explosion.”

One of the trains was stopped on the tracks waiting for another train down track to leave a station when, for an unknown reason, another train slammed into the back of the first train, said Metro General Manager John Catoe.

“We want to express our condolences to all of the family members — obviously they haven’t even been notified yet,” D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said during a news conference near the crash site. “Our hearts go out to the many loves ones.”

Two of casualties are listed as serious, while about 20 while suffered moderate injuries, said District Fire Chief Dennis Rubin. About 50 passengers suffered less severe injuries, which Mr. Rubin called “walking wounded.”

Mr. Fenty, during a mid-evening news conference, said the front part of train that ran into last part and the train is 50 percent to 70 percent “compressed.”

Rescue crews continued to search trains for survivors throughout the evening, while medical personnel had transferred 76 people to area hospitals.

“We’re hoping they’ll pull through the night,” he mayor said.

D’Ana Williams, 27, who lives next door to the Takoma Metro station and heard the crash, said it sounded like “two dump trucks colliding into each other, like they dumped a load.”

D.C. fire spokesman Alan Etter said the scene was developing into a “mass casualty event,” with crews cutting apart the trains to get people out. He says there are severe injuries, but no indication how many.

Mr. Catoe said at least 60 people had been taken off the trains.

Fire officials said they didn’t know how many people were aboard the train.

Metro officials advised the public to avoid the Red Line on Monday evening. Trains were operating between the Glenmont and Silver Spring stations and between the Shady Grove and Rhode Island Avenue stations.

Authorities said the track at the crash site might not be reopened until after the Tuesday morning rush hour.

None of the Metro trains leaving Union Station are running, according to a Union Station security guard.

FBI Supervisory Special Agent Richard Kolko said the bureau sent agents, including members of the evidence-response team, to the scene of the crash as a routine response to assist local law enforcement.

Gale Griffin, who lives a half block from the crash site, said she heard a loud noise shortly after 5 p.m.

It sounded “like a bomb went off,” she said.

Alvaro Daniel Lopez said he went to a bridge overlooking the Takoma Park Metro station when he heard noise from the crash.

“I felt nervous because a lot of people were screaming,” said Mr. Lopez, 25. “I had never heard things like that.”

The line of people waiting for a taxi extends from the main entrance of Union Station all the way to the end of the massive building. An estimated 150 people were waiting for a cab.

Becky Cole was one of the people waiting for a cab. She said she was on her way home from work and she got on the train at L’Enfant Plaza, the train stopped and people were kept on the train for 45 minutes. Then they finally told them there was an emergency and that they would exit at Union Station.

Another Metro customer, Donna Robie, said that Metro officials asked her to exit the Metro train she was on and said there would be a Metro shuttle that would take them to a bus stop. But only one shuttle showed up in 45 minutes.

Monday’s derailment comes more than two years after a subway train derailed near downtown Washington, sending 20 people to the hospital and prompting the rescue of 60 people from a tunnel.

That accident happened after the fifth car of a six-car, northbound train crossed a rail switch and left the tracks. Metro was running trains along one track between the Mount Vernon and L’Enfant Plaza stations when it occurred.

In November 2004, an unoccupied six-car train headed for a rail yard backed into an occupied train that was stopped at the platform in the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan station on the Red Line. That collision also injured 20 persons.

Ben Conery, Sarah Abruzzese, Stephanie Green, Melissa Giaimo and Cassie Fleming contributed to this report.

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