DC Metro Almost Suffered A Head-On Collision Over A Lunch Break

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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A dispute over a train operator’s lunch break led to a recent “near miss” head-on collision in the subway tunnels of the D.C. Metro.

Patrick Lavin, Metro’s chief safety officer, revealed details of the July 5 incident that led to the train operator’s termination. Addressing the D.C. Metro board Thursday, Lavin detailed the egregious safety violations that almost injured two workers and placed passenger trains on the same track. Lavin said the operator got into a dispute with his superiors about a lunch break, apparently wanting to take it at a station where he could get better food, reports The Washington Post.

The operator violated a series of protocols before entering the tunnel, shutting off his radio, closing the doors of the train before receiving the proper signal and running a red stop signal. (RELATED: DC Metro Repairs Are Still Flouting Safety Standards, Ignoring Threats)

“It turned into this childish debate,” Lavin said to the Metro board. “It wasn’t this rush-rush mentality put on him by management. He was concerned for a different reason.”

The train approached the Glenmont Station, ran a red signal, then entered a switch, which placed it on the same track as an oncoming train. Moving at 12 miles per hour, the train almost hit two maitinence workers in the tunnel who jumped out of the way. The maintenance workers eventually got the attention of the operator who finally stopped the train.

Adding to the violations, Metro officials failed to cut power to the electrified third-rail for 80 minutes after the incident. Five employees were disciplined after they evacuated passengers next to the fully-energized, electrified third-rail following the “near miss.”

“I don’t think ‘red signal violation’ truly captures what happened,” Lavin said, according to The Washington Post. “This was just flagrant.”

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