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NTSB Finds DC Metro Officials Ignored Safety Warnings For Decades

(Credit: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter

A forthcoming report on a fatal track fire in D.C.’s Metro system last year reportedly shows decades of neglect by officials, who regularly ignored a litany of safety threats to the transit system on which 15 people have died since 2009.

The deadly 2015 incident in L’Enfant Plaza station left one woman dead and 91 injured after a track fire stopped a yellow line Metro car while in a tunnel, filling railcars with smoke. Carol Glover’s tragic death is the fifteenth fatality in the D.C. Metro of either a passenger or worker since 2009.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s report into the incident, scheduled for release Tuesday, promises to be explosive, highlighting decades of safety negligence and improper repairs, reports WAMU.

Officials in Congress briefed on the findings Monday say Metro leaders reportedly failed to make changes to safety threats stretching back to a 1982 derailment that left three people dead and twenty-five injured. The deadly 2015 fire reportedly stems from poorly built equipment. (RELATED: Feds Shake Up Metro Board After Crippling Week Of Malfunctions)

“Some electrical connections associated with the power supply to the third rail were improperly constructed and installed, which can allow moisture and contaminants to enter the components,” says the report, according to WAMU. “Such conditions can create the potential for electrical short circuiting, which could result in fire and smoke events.”

The report shows a slow response stemming from poor employee training and oversight contributed to the fatal fire in the L’Enfant Plaza station tunnels. Communication issues also played a role as it took nearly an hour and fifteen minutes for officials to evacuate the smokey train.

During saftey inspections throughout April, inspectors with the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) observed Metro employees violating safety procedures on numerous occasions, putting themselves and commuters at risk. They found trains ignoring speed restrictions in tunnels and workers ignoring the “15-second ample time rule” as trains approach, sometimes jumping out of a train’s way with only seconds to spare. (RELATED: Federal Inspectors Shred DC Metro: ‘Clear Concern For Public Safety’)

The federal government took over temporary oversight of the D.C. Metro, a first for any national transit system, until the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) puts in place comprehensive, long-term fixes to address the deteriorating system. This includes the creation of a new office designated to oversee transit safety. Inspectors have found 680 defects in the system so far, 409 needing urgent action, reports The Washington Post.

“Our teams have been in that system for several months, but really the rate of inspections in these months has been more than they’ve had for quite some time,” Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx told The Washington Post. “That in itself is troubling.”

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