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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 MikulskiAthletic directors honor best former student-athletes on Capitol Hill Dems ponder gender politics of 2020 nominee Robert Mueller's forgotten surveillance crime spree MORE (D-Md.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerCollusion judgment looms for key Senate panel Hillicon Valley: Facebook reveals 30 million users affected by hack | Grassley presses Google to explain data practices | Senators warn Canada against using Chinese telecom firm | FCC responds to net neutrality lawsuits Senators urge Canada against using Huawei in 5G development due to national security concerns MORE (D-Va.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinBipartisan bill would block foreign adversaries from owning US election vendors Missing journalist strains US-Saudi relationship Democrats seek to turn Kavanaugh anger into votes MORE (D-Md.) and Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineElection Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms Senators warn Trump that Saudi relationship is on the line Virginia police release surveillance video from Jewish center vandalized with swastikas MORE (D-Va.), along with Del. Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Steady Kavanaugh proves to be a tough target for Democrats Dems vow rules overhaul to empower members if House flips Overnight Health Care: House votes to repeal medical device tax | Fierce ObamaCare critic joins administration | GOP senators target DC individual mandate MORE (D-D.C.) and Reps. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOn The Money: Stocks slide for second day as Trump blames 'loco' Fed | Mulvaney calls for unity at consumer bureau | Pelosi says Dems will go after Trump tax returns Pelosi: Trump tax returns ‘one of the first things we’d do’ if Dems win House GOP sees Kavanaugh as boost for Senate, danger for House MORE (D-Md.), Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsDems eye ambitious agenda if House flips Oversight Dems call for probe into citizenship question on 2020 census Drug companies fear Democratic Congress MORE (D-Md.), Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenSenators concerned as Trump official disputes UN climate change warning Hillicon Valley: Facebook deletes accounts for political 'spam' | Leaked research shows Google's struggles with online free speech | Trump's praise for North Korea complicates cyber deterrence | Senators want Google memo on privacy bug Bipartisan bill would block foreign adversaries from owning US election vendors MORE (D-Md.), John SarbanesJohn Peter Spyros SarbanesHoyer lays out government reform blueprint Pelosi seizes on anti-corruption message against GOP Collins indictment raises Dem hopes in deep-red district MORE (D-Md.), Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyVirginia Dem rips administration on Khashoggi Democrats see hypocrisy in GOP attacks on ‘liberal mob’ Oversight Dems call for probe into citizenship question on 2020 census MORE (D-Va.), John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyTop-tier Dems begin making way to Iowa Election Countdown: Midterm fight heats up over Kavanaugh | McConnell sees energized base | Dems look to women to retake House | How suburban voters could decide control of Congress | Taylor Swift backs Tennessee Dems | Poll shows Cruz up 5 in Texas Dem 2020 primary season is unofficially underway 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