DC area lawmakers to discuss fatal Metro incident

DC area lawmakers to discuss fatal Metro incident
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Lawmakers who represent districts in the metropolitan Washington area on Wednesday are planning to discuss a smoke incident on the region’s Metrorail subway last week that left one passenger dead and more than 80 others injured after they receive a briefing from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). 

The accident investigation agency is scheduled to brief Sens. Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiDems ponder gender politics of 2020 nominee Robert Mueller's forgotten surveillance crime spree Clinton: White House slow-walking Russia sanctions MORE (D-Md.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate panel advances Trump IRS nominee Bipartisan bill would bring needed funds to deteriorating National Park Service infrastructure Senate Dems press for info on any deals from Trump-Putin meeting MORE (D-Va.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinSenate panel advances Trump IRS nominee Juan Williams: Putin wins as GOP spins Senate passes resolution honoring victims of Capital Gazette shooting MORE (D-Md.) and Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineGraham would consider US-Russia military coordination in Syria Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick Election Countdown: Latest on the 2018 Senate money race | Red-state Dems feeling the heat over Kavanaugh | Dem doubts about Warren | Ocasio-Cortez to visit Capitol Hill | Why Puerto Ricans in Florida could swing Senate race MORE (D-Va.), along with Del. Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonTwo lives cut too short in vastly different ways Major League Soccer player comes out publicly as gay Congress looks to boost commercial space transport MORE (D-D.C.) and Reps. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia House leaders clash over resolution backing ICE Hoyer calls on GOP to bring up election security amendment MORE (D-Md.), Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsDem lawmaker calls on House to subpoena American translator from Trump-Putin meeting Hillicon Valley: Trump denies Russian meddling at presser with Putin | Republicans join in criticism of Trump | FCC chief rejects Sinclair-Tribune merger | Uber faces probe over gender discrimination | Social media execs headed to Capitol Overnight Energy: Koch backs bill opposing carbon taxes | Lawmakers look to Interior budget to block offshore drilling | EPA defends FOIA process MORE (D-Md.), Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenHillicon Valley: Trump's Russia moves demoralize his team | Congress drops effort to block ZTE deal | Rosenstein warns of foreign influence threat | AT&T's latest 5G plans On The Money: Trump 'ready' for tariffs on all 0B in Chinese goods | Trump digs in on Fed criticism | Lawmakers drop plans to challenge Trump ZTE deal Overnight Defense: White House 'not considering' Ukraine referendum | Pompeo hopeful on plans for Putin visit | Measure to block ZTE deal dropped from defense bill MORE (D-Md.), John SarbanesJohn Peter Spyros SarbanesAnti-Trump protesters hold candlelight vigil by White House 5 people dead in shooting at Annapolis newspaper Overnight Defense: Defense spending bill amendments target hot-button issues | Space Force already facing hurdles | Senators voice 'deep' concerns at using military lawyers on immigration cases MORE (D-Md.), Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyTrump EPA eases standards for coal ash disposal Overnight Energy: Fewer than half of school districts test for lead | Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act | FEMA avoids climate change when discussing plan for future storms Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog won’t drop Pruitt probes | Exxon leaves conservative advocacy group | Lawmakers offer changes to Endangered Species Act MORE (D-Va.), John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyHoping to catch fire, House Dems eye White House Dem rep: Dysfunctional Congress has elevated the Supreme Court Rep. John Delaney talks about his early 2020 presidential filing MORE (D-Md.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), and Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) on the deadly incident on Metro’s Yellow Line. 

Investigators have said the Yellow Line train was heading toward Northern Virginia on Jan. 12 when an electrical issue halted its progress, trapping passengers underground in smoke-filled cars.

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The incident resulted in Metro’s first passenger fatality since a high-profile crash on the Red Line in 2009 that killed nine people and led to widespread changes at the capital-area transit agency.

Lawmakers began pressing the agency for answers before the NTSB began its investigation last week. 

"For those who use the Metro system on a daily basis, [last Monday’s] tragic events represent a nightmare situation in which passengers were left in the dark, breathing potentially toxic smoke and fumes, for close to one hour before first responders allowed an evacuation," Warner wrote in a letter to former Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Chairman Richard Sarles, who retired at the end of last week in an exit that was planned long before the Yellow Line incident. 

"While the incident currently is under investigation by a team from the National Transportation Safety Board, the circumstances reported by dozens of passengers and witnesses are disturbing," Warner continued. "I understand that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is now beginning a thorough and comprehensive investigation of yesterday’s incident which limits your ability to discuss the events in detail. However, general training and coordination procedures are clearly at issue here, and I therefore request a full briefing as soon as possible."

NTSB officials have attributed the smoke in Metro’s Yellow Line tunnel to an  “electrical arcing incident” that occurred near the agency’s L’Enfant Plaza station, which is a major transfer station that is located near the NTSB’s Washington headquarters.

“On January 12, 2015, about 3:15 p.m. eastern standard time, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Metrorail train 302 stopped after encountering an accumulation of heavy smoke while traveling southbound in a tunnel between the L’Enfant Plaza Station and the Potomac River Bridge,” the agency said in its preliminary report. 

“NTSB investigators have inspected the area of the incident, where they observed severe electrical arcing damage to the third rail and electrical cables about 1,100 feet ahead of train 302,” the report continued. “Recorded data shows that at about 3:06 p.m., an electrical breaker at one end of a section of third rail tripped (opened). At about 3:16 p.m. the WMATA Operations Control Center (OCC) began activating ventilation fans in an effort to exhaust smoke from the area. The electrical breaker at the other end of the third rail section remained closed; supplying power until the WMATA OCC remotely sent a command to open the breaker at about 3:50 p.m.” 

Metro and Washington, D.C. officials have been criticized for allowing such a long gap before emergency responders could reach passengers who were stuck on the smoke-filled train. 

The NTSB’s full preliminary report can be read here