- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hundreds of mourners gathered Friday for memorial services held across the District to remember the victims of Monday’s deadly Metro crash.

Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. praised the actions of train operator Jeanice McMillan, 42, who investigators say attempted to apply the emergency brakes just before her train slammed into a stationary train Monday near Fort Totten Metro station in Northeast. Miss McMillan and eight passengers were killed.

“When the investigation is completed we will find that she went beyond her job,” Mr. Catoe said at a memorial service for Miss McMillan at the Temple of Praise Fellowship Hall in Southeast. “I believe that she saved lives. She was able to slow that train up before it crashed.”

Attending the service were Miss McMillan’s parents, Gerald and Betty McMillan, her 19-year-old son Jordan, as well as a number of Metro officials and other city leaders.

“She was there for me for everything,” her son said. “If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know where I’d be.”

At St. Mary Mother of God Catholic Church in Northwest, a prayer service was held by the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington to remember all the victims and their families.

About 30 fire trucks and other emergency vehicles lined up on Fifth Street near the service, due to a special invitation to the city’s first responders involved in Monday’s accident.

“Metro is an important part of our community,” said the Rev. Clark Lobenstine, executive director of the conference. “When a tragedy like this occurs, it affects all of us and it is important that we gather as a community to pray.”

Meanwhile, Metro officials have reassigned the superintendent of the automatic control system that is the focus of a federal probe into the accident, the deadliest in Metro’s 33-year history.

Matthew Matyuf, a Metro employee for almost 20 years and superintendent of the agency’s automatic train control division, has been reassigned to an unidentified “special project,” Metro officials said Friday.

Metro spokeswoman Candace Smith said the move was temporary and not in any way related to Mr. Matyuf’s recent conduct at his former post.

“It’s a precaution until the investigation is complete,” she said.

On Thursday, the National Transportation Safety Board revealed that Metro’s computer control system failed to identify a test train that was placed at the crash site. The tests suggest the system used to relay signals and commands may have contributed to the crash.

Investigators also found metal-to-metal compression streak marks on both rails of the track for at least 125 feet leading to the impact site, indicating “heavy braking.”

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who attended the service for Miss McMillan, called the Metro operator a “fantastic public servant.”

“Her title may have said conductor, but as this service has shown us, she really was a leader,” he said. “That is how she will be remembered.”

Several dozen Metro employees arrived at the service in uniform, some wearing their distinctive yellow safety vests. They were given a black arm band before entering the service.

A funeral service for Miss McMillan is planned for next week in her hometown of Buffalo, N.Y.

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