Warner demands fast answers after Metro smoke death

Warner demands fast answers after Metro smoke death
© Getty Images

Virginia Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerFive Senate Democrats reportedly opposed to Biden banking nominee The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - House to vote on Biden social spending bill after McCarthy delay Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — US mulls Afghan evacuees' future MORE (D) is pressing for answers after a D.C. Metro train filled with smoke this week, leaving one passenger dead and more than 80 others injured.

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


The National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation into the incident.

Warner, whose state includes several Metro stations, said he has questions that need to be answered more quickly than a typical accident probe can produce.

"For those who use the Metro system on a daily basis, [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 outgoing Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Chairman Richard Sarles.

"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."

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.

Warner said in a statement that he would continue pressing the agency for answers because many of his constituents rely on Metro daily.

“While the National Transportation Safety Board investigation is just getting underway and may require months to complete, Virginians are climbing back aboard Metro trains today,” he said. “Metro passengers deserve to know as soon as possible about Metro’s safety protocols for this type of incident, and those answers should be provided right away.”

In response, Metro Chairman Tom Davis offered the board's "deepest condolences to the family of the passenger who died" and pledged action will follow the NTSB probe.

“Metro is actively cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board investigation that is now underway. This will be a thorough process that often takes time, and we understand that passengers want answers quickly," Davis said. "Please know that once the cause of this incident is understood, we are prepared to take the actions needed to prevent this from happening again."

— Updated at 12:17 p.m.