The death toll climbed to nine in a rush-hour collision between two Metro trains in Washington on Monday, with scores more injured, CNN affiliates reported.
WJLA and WUSA attributed the information to officials for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Commuter traffic along the Red Line, where the crash happened, will be “severely” affected Tuesday, officials said. By late Monday, emergency crews had switched to recovery operations after halting rescue efforts. One of the dead was the operator of one of the trains, transit authority officials said. The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating. The crash occurred just before 5 p.m. on an above-ground track in the District of Columbia near the border with Takoma Park, Maryland. Both trains were on the same track, and one of them was stationary when the crash happened, said John Catoe, Metro general manager. Watch woman say she, fellow passengers “went flying” » A total of 76 people were treated for injuries at the scene, including two with life-threatening injuries, said Chief Dennis Rubin of the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department for the District of Columbia. Two of the injured were emergency responders, Rubin said. Four people were taken to Providence Hospital in Washington, including two with back injuries, one with a hip injury and one complaining of dizziness from hitting her head, hospital officials said. Washington Hospital Center said it had received seven patients from the crash with non-life-threatening injuries, ranging from serious to minor. One person needed surgery. Howard University Hospital reported three patients from the crash and Suburban Hospital in Maryland said it had two. One car was “about 75 percent compressed,” and recovery workers aren’t sure if any more bodies are inside, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty told CNN’s “Larry King Live” on Monday night. “We just haven’t been able to cut through it to see if there’s bodies in there,” Fenty said. “The scene is as horrific as you can imagine,” Fenty said in a news conference. “One car was almost squeezed completely together.” A certified nursing assistant who was on one of the trains told CNN affiliate WUSA she was trying to help those in severe condition after the crash, including a lady who appeared to be in her 20s. “She is very, very torn in her legs — the muscles and everything are torn, ripped through. She had metal pieces in her face,” said the nursing assistant, who said her name was Jeanie. Other witnesses described seeing more blood than they had seen before. Watch injured passengers limp from the scene » Tom Baker, who was in the train that hit the stationary train, told WUSA that after the collision, he looked toward the front of the car, and when the smoke cleared, “all you could see was sky.” Jasmine Gars, who also was on the moving train, told CNN’s “Larry King Live” that the collision “was like nothing I’ve ever felt before.” “It was like we hit a concrete wall,” Gars said. “Almost immediately, I fell off my seat. Another person — I don’t know who — flew off their seat. And the lights went off and smoke started filling the train car.” Groups of people wearing green plastic ribbons to show they had been checked by paramedics left the crash scene about 90 minutes after the accident. Some were crying, and a woman with her arm in a sling who gave her name as Tijuana described the crash as “an earthquake.” A Metro statement said both trains were on the same track in the same direction, south out of the Fort Totten station. The operator who was killed was on the trailing train, it said. See location of crash » “Metro officials do not know the cause of the collision and are not likely to know the cause for several days as the investigation unfolds,” the statement said. The NTSB team arrived to investigate the crash, assisted by the FBI Evidence Response Team, according to NTSB board member Deborah Hersman, who said she had walked the tracks by the accident scene. “I can tell you it is a scene of real devastation down there,” she said. Hersman said both trains contained six cars. The trailing train, she said, struck the other train from the rear and its “first car overrode the last car of the other train in an accordion fashion.” She said it wasn’t clear whether the trains carried devices that record speed and other data. “It depends on the series of the cars,” she said. “And then it will depend on whether the devices are damaged.” The recorders can provide key information, according to Peter Goelz, a former NTSB managing director. The investigators “are going to look very carefully at the event recorder in the train that hit the stopped train,” he said. “Unfortunately, in a number of train accidents recently, both in Boston and in Southern California, you had the engineer being distracted. My hope is that’s not the case here.” In a Boston trolley accident in May and a commuter train accident near Los Angeles last fall, the operators were sending text messages just before the accidents. Since then, the California Public Utilities Commission has banned train engineers from using cell phones on duty. The Washington transit authority told investigators that trains normally operate in automatic mode at rush hour, Hersman said, adding that investigators were trying to determine whether that was true during the accident. Amy Kudwa of the Department of Homeland Security said, at this early stage, there was no indication of anything other than an accident. “We will continue to monitor closely and provide support in any way needed,” Kudwa said. It was the second Metro crash to involve fatalities in the 33-year history of the transit authority. In January 1982, a derailment killed three people. The only other collision between Metro trains occurred in 2004. “We are extremely saddened that there are fatalities as a result of this accident, which has touched our Metro family,” Catoe, the Metro general manager, said in a statement. “We hope to have more details about the casualties later today. Our safety officials are investigating and will continue to investigate until we determine why this happened and what must be done to ensure it never happens again.” President Obama issued a statement saying that he and the first lady were “saddened by the terrible accident,” and thanking first responders “who arrived immediately to save lives.” See pictures of crash site » Jodie Wickett described feeling a bump on the track, then being flung forward when the train suddenly halted a few seconds later. She said she hit her head, but managed to get out and go to where the collision occurred a few cars up, with one train car atop another.
“There was debris, and people pinned under in between the two cars,” Wickett said. “We were just trying to get them out and help them as much as possible, pulling back the metal.” People were badly injured, she said, adding that “ones that could speak were calling back as we called out to them.”