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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 WarnerLawmakers worry about rise of fake video technology Mueller indictment reveals sophisticated Russian manipulation effort GOP cautious, Dems strident in reaction to new indictments MORE (D-Va.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinWashington puts Ethiopia's human rights abusers on notice Overnight Defense: Mattis vows Dreamers in military won't be deported | Pentagon unsure if military parade will be in Washington | Dem bill would block funds for parade Dems introduce bills to block funds for Trump's proposed parade MORE (D-Md.) and Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineSave lives, restore congressional respect by strengthening opioids’ seizure Overnight Finance: Lawmakers, Treasury look to close tax law loopholes | Trump says he backs gas tax hike | Markets rise despite higher inflation | Fannie Mae asks for .7B Bipartisan Senate group says they have immigration deal MORE (D-Va.), along with Del. Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonTrump budget cuts all funding for program that helps DC students pay for college Eleanor Holmes Norton to Trump: Fund veterans' health care, don't have a parade GOP lawmakers describe terrifying scene at train crash MORE (D-D.C.) and Reps. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerCongress punts fight over Dreamers to March Calls mount from Dems to give platform to Trump accusers  Citing deficits, House GOP to take aim at entitlements MORE (D-Md.), Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsOvernight Cybersecurity: Lawyer charged in Mueller probe pleads guilty to lying | Sessions launches cyber task force | White House tallies economic impact of cyber crime Oversight Dems urge Equifax to extend protections for breach victims Top Oversight Dem pushes for White House opioid briefing MORE (D-Md.), Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDems pan Trump's budget as helping the wealthy Senate Dems push FDA to reject alternative cigarette health claims Trump must send Russia powerful message through tougher actions MORE (D-Md.), John SarbanesJohn Peter Spyros SarbanesGOP spending bill cuts DC Metro funding in half Maryland after Mikulski Md. House Dems on Senate crash course MORE (D-Md.), Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyFlorida students turn to activism in wake of shooting House Dem joins protest at NRA headquarters following Florida school shooting Trump budget threatens local transit projects MORE (D-Va.), John DelaneyJohn Kevin Delaney2020 Dem contenders travel to key primary states Overnight Tech: FTC nominees promise focus on data breaches | FCC chair backs SpaceX broadband project | AT&T wants antitrust chief to testify in merger trial Experts fear US losing ground to China on AI 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