- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Federal investigators on Wednesday will examine the brakes on the Metro train that slammed into a stopped train, killing nine and injuring roughly 80 in the worst accident in the transit agency’s 33-year history.

Debbie Hersman, a National Transportation Safety Board member, said investigators would “blow some air” into the brakes and examine the wheels of the Red Line train that crashed into a stationary train at about 5 p.m. Monday.

Ms. Hersman told CNN that a preliminary examination of the brakes show a blue tint on the rotors that is “consistent with the applications of emergency brakes.”

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The NTSB said Tuesday the train was running on an automatic mode but that the operator, Jeanice McMillan, attempted to apply the brakes.

Ms. McMillan, 42, was killed in the crash, on a curved stretch of above-ground track near the Fort Totten station in Northeast.

Investigators also will test a computerized sensor system that alerts trains that other ones are stopped on a track, then stops the trains.

The investigation also will include looking into Ms. McMillan’s work history, her blood-test results and cell-phone and text-messaging records.

Ms. Hersman said federal investigators have yet to fully review reports on routine brake inspections for the train — composed of older-model, 1000-series cars— because they primarily have been focused on recovering crash-scene evidence. However, investigators will review the reports Wednesday.

The NTSB recommended after a similar, 2006 accident that Metro retrofit or phase out the 1000-series cars because they don’t adequately protect passengers in a crash. However, Metro officials said they could not retire all of the cars until 2014 because of financial restraints.

Ms. Hersman said NTSB officials understand Metro has financial issues but “this is not something we like to see.”

“After 2006, we said we’d like to see the cars more robust in a crash,” she said. “Our concern is when we come back and see a second or third instance.”

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