- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 25, 2009

UPDATED:

The operator of the Metro train that slammed into another Red Line train Monday and killed nine people was not using her cellphone at the time of the crash, Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. said Thursday.

Evidence including residue on brake rotors show operator Jeanice McMillan, 42, of Springfield, Va., was trying to stop the train during the Monday afternoon crash in which she and eight others were killed, ending speculation she was talking or text messaging.

“We know where her cell phone was,” Mr. Catoe said. “It was in a backpack.”

MR. Catoe Jr. also Thursday ordered the inspection of 3,000 signal circuits embedded in the agency’s 106 miles of subway track, following preliminary findings in a federal probe that suggest the computerized sensors contributed to the Red Line accident Monday in which nine people died and nearly 80 were injured.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday night an automated circuit near the crash scene showed an “anomaly” after being tested. The accident, the worst in Metro’s 33-year history, occurred at about 5 p.m. Monday when a train slammed into a stopped train near the Fort Totten station in Northeast.

The circuit, a 740-foot section of track, was designed to relay signals to Metro trains — including commands to stop in case another train ahead is stationary. Officials have been at a loss to explain why the computerized system did not stop the moving train.

“Even though the [NTSB] investigation is under way, we’re not going to wait for a report to take action,” Mr. Catoe said at a meeting of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board of directors, which determines agency policy and provides oversight for the funding, operation and expansion of transit facilities.

Mr. Catoe also said the inspection is a precautionary measure and trains on all five lines will be operated manually until all circuits are working.

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The process could take several weeks, but officials hope to complete the work sooner, said Gerald Francis, the agency’s deputy general manager and chief operating officer.

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