Anomalies found in DC Metro crash probe

(RAW STORY)   Investigators probing the deadliest accident in the history of the Washington Metro have found “anomalies” in a circuit in the track where a train slammed into the back of another this week, killing nine people.

Five of six circuits in the section of track where the accident occurred at the start of the evening rush hour on Monday “operated per standard” when investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) ran a device that simulates train wheels over the rails, board official Deborah Hersman said.

“One of the circuits, however, has some anomalies. That’s the circuit that our investigators are paying close attention to now,” Hersman told reporters at a news conference Wednesday.

The circuits send speed commands to trains and tell them when to stop or proceed, Hersman said.

An NTSB team that walked the stretch of track between two commuter stations in northeast Washington where the accident occurred found indications that the driver of the striking train, 42-year-old Jeanice McMillan, tried to stop her train from plowing into the back of the stationary train.

“Bluing indicates that there was some emergency braking that might have taken place,” she added.

Earlier probe results have shown that the emergency brake on the train McMillan was operating had been depressed.

Two electronic brake control units (EBCUs) have been extricated from the mangled wreckage of the first two cars of the train operated by McMillan and would be “bench-tested” Thursday, Hersman said.

Investigators have already reviewed the EBCUs taken from the last four cars of the six-car striking train and found no defects, she told reporters.

The “anti-climbers” — extensions on trains that function like a combination of bumper and shield and are supposed to prevent one train riding up onto the other on impact — had engaged both on the front car of the striking train and on the rear car of the struck train.

But the front car of the striking train nevertheless climbed up onto the back of the other train, which was pushed forward seven feet (two meters) by the impact.

NTSB investigators will Thursday interview the driver of the struck train, who has been discharged from hospital.

McMillan was one of the nine people who died in the crash.

The train she was operating was an older, 1,000-series train. In 2004, the NTSB recommended that 1,000-series trains be either “retrofitted to make them more crash-worthy, or removed from service,” Hersman said Wednesday.

In an earlier news conference, Hersman had noted that the lead car of the train driven by McMillan was severely compressed by the impact, with “50 feet of that 75 feet (15 of 23 meters)… of survivable space lost or compromised.”

http://rawstory.com/news/afp/Washington_Metro_crash_probe_finds__06252009.html

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