City Desk

Fenty Press Conference #3: Liveblog

Fire Chief Dennis Rubin with Adrian Fenty at a press conference yesterday

Fenty is expected to make remarks on the red line crash this morning at 8:00 a.m. We'll be live-blogging the press conference here.

8:01 a.m. Mayor Adrian Fenty, Fire Chief Dennis Rubin, Councilmember Jim Graham step up.

8:02 a.m. Fenty says he wants the country to know that his first efforts are with the families and friends of the victims. 76 people were taken off of the train to the hospital. Yesterday, six were confirmed dead. This morning, the number of confirmed dead is seven. Not nine as previously reported.

8:03 a.m. Fenty says it's the deadliest crash in the history of WMATA. Two critically injured held stable in the hospital last night. One injured person was updated out of critical last night. Fenty says he'll begin making next-of-kin notifications today.

8:04 a.m. Heavy equipment came in today to begin cutting through the train. Fenty says that after the machinery comes in they'll have an updated number of confirmed dead. He hopes it doesn't rise from the current number, 7.

8:05 a.m. Fenty brings forward Fire Chief Rubin.

8:06 a.m. Rubin says at 5:30 a.m. a crane was able to come in to lift up some of the debris to help "thoroughly check every single space." Firefighters worked through the night. Brought in dogs to look for survivors underneath the train and in the wooded area near the tracks.

8:07 a.m. Rescue is on hold for now while the trains are moved off the train. There have been two minor firefighter injuries, Rubin says.

8:08 a.m. Police Chief Cathy Lanier gives an update on next-of-kin updates. She says that they will likely be able to be made later today.

8:09 a.m. WMATA chief John Catoe gives his condolences to the families of the driver and the passengers. "We will find out what happened here, what caused this, and put all the resources necessary to make sure this doesn't happen again." Says his heart goes out to the families of the dead and injured. Says he's heard comments from around the world about the crash.

8:10 a.m. Data recovery: NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) rep Debbie Hersman says they are making sure they document each step of that so they know the exact condition of the accident scene going forward. Investigators say there were nine data recorders on the train that was struck. The striking train, which hit the standing train, does not have the same level of recorders on it, so they are not expecting to get any data off of that. There are 9 NTSB investigators working on the scene.

8:12 a.m. WMATA operates in "ATO" or "automatic" mode during rush hour—the time of the crash. Hersman says one team will be looking at the drivers' records as well as cell phone and texting records to get more info about what they were doing at the time of the scene. There will also be an equipment investigation to see if there was any breakage. There's also a team looking at the condition of the track for any broken circuits or defects after the trains are moved. Another team will be working to interview survivors about what happened during the crash and how effective WMATA worked post-crash.

8:13 a.m. Hersman begins taking questions.

First question: Expound on the crashworthiness of the train cars. [Mike Debonis is on the crashworthiness question here].

Hersman says that the entire last car on the train was compromised in the crash. She says only that there have been recommendations made about survivability on the trains made to the feds and to WMATA.

Catoe adds in that any crash would compromise part of the car.

Second question: Even if the train was on automatic, shouldn't there have been some way for the driver to see the train ahead and manually stop it?

Hersman says that they'll do an investigation of the speeds of the trains and perform a sight-distance test to see whether it would have even been possible for the train's driver to see the train in front in time to step.

Third question: What is the best-case scenario of getting any recorded information off the 1000-series cars (the older car that hit the train ahead)?

Hersman says they don't expect to get any information from off that car.

Fourth question: [I missed this one, anyone catch it?]

Fifth question: Basically, if these 1000 series cars have poor crashworthiness and no recording devices, why are they in use?

Hersman says there have been recommendations made that the 1000-series cars are phased out. She says that there have also been recommendations for adding recording devices to those cars before they're phased out. But she cautions against assuming the cause of this crash.

Fenty says that they will reconvene at 5 p.m. for what he expects to be the final city-led press conference on the crash.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • DC resident

    Chief Rubin, try the KISS method “Keep it Simple Stupid.”
    Please someone advise that fire chief to quit babbling during news conferences and using terms that need explanation. Omit the BS jargon and provide the information. If you need to explain it, don’t say it. Simply give “accurate” information in layman terms. FYI: Babbling and rambling don’t make you appear intelligent or competent quite the contrary.

  • bendygirl

    So, the striking train was an older train and the struck train was the newer model. I'm glad NTSB is there. She seems to be pretty good at discussing things I wanted to know.

    Why are there so many unaffected DC councilmembers there. Wasn't this in Ward 5? I could see Harry Thomas being there, but why all the other wards?

  • Mike DeBonis

    The accident is in Ward 4, so Muriel is there. It happened a block or two from Ward 5, so Thomas is there. Graham is Metro board chair. I didn't see Michael Brown, but he was there last night as a Metro board alternate.

  • Scary

    DID the Deputy Fire Chief say… There was nobody at that moment available to drive the ambulance, for the [most severely injured]? If so, not good...

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    I stand by my original assertion that this collision was caused by operator error, most likely by the same train operator who left me stranded in Takoma Park at 11:44 p.m. two weeks ago last night. The Post reports that operator error was the key factor in the collision.
    Metro does not do an adequate job of screening, training, & monitoring its drivers, both train & bus operators. The only surprising aspect to this story is that a similar incident does not happen once or twice a year every year.

  • anonymouse

    I'm not sure that operator error had anything to do with it, actually. The second train was coming around a right hand curve and under a bridge, and it is likely that there was no way the operator could have seen the standing train until a few seconds before the impact. That's why there's a signal system, which is supposed to prevent these collisions, and this is almost certainly what failed. Imagine, if you will, a road intersection where the traffic light fails and gives a green light to both streets. How many collisions do you think there would be?

  • Q

    Angry Al, you much like Mayor Fenty need to chill and keep comments to oneself until the investigation is complete. This is a tragedy...people DIED and MANY, MANY, were injured. This is no time to be blaming folks or armchair investigating. The affected families need prayer, METRO needs prayer as I'm sure folks were a little skeptical riding this morning.

    Dave, I agree with the headline. Sometimes too much information is not enough, especially when folks are reporting the SAME THING OVER and OVER AGAIN. Fenty, Graham, and others aren't adding any new details. All they are doing is saturating the public with the same information that we already knew. I'd rather Fenty, Bowser, Thomas, and Graham, go back to their jobs instead of wasting my tax monies sitting in front of the camera.

    BTW, Good to hear that your neighbor is okay. Unfortunately, some folks went to work yesterday not knowing that it would be their last.

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    There is evidence that the operator of the second train did not apply the brakes. At all.

    Thus, operator error played a key role & was the proximate cause of the severity of this collision. QED.

    Prayer is for fools. If people spent less time praying & more time working or learning, this world would be an infinitely better place. In this case, if Metro had better trains, switches, & operators, this collision would not have happened. Prayer will not help overcome Metro's errors. Nor will prayer help avoid future collisions. Only more work & more learning can prevent future collisions.

    Science will show us that it was, as is true almost always, human error - here, train operator error. Life is not a fairytale; life is cold, hard facts. Deal with it.

  • Skipper

    Who needs the NTSB when we have some anonymous online poster to give us all the answers on this tragedy?

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    Well, Skippy, I'm glad that Metro is not waiting twelve or eighteen months for an NTSB report, but has already changed some of its procedures. & I hope that the train operators are being watched more carefully.
    & who is anonymous? Some clown who calls himself "Skippy"?

  • Q

    Agreed Skipper! Angry Al, science, technology, training, etc. may have decreased the chances of the crash but NONE of them deal with the HUMAN condition and feeling of grief, hopelessness, distrust, and overall anguish of the tragedy. You may not like or believe in the concept of prayer, but it WORKS for those that do. In fact, it works for you too, as obviously someone must've prayed for you to make it this far. LOL!

    Seriously though, you are doing as much grandstanding on this issue as those whom you criticize. With the advent of seat belts, they have reduced fatalities, but they have not eliminated them. If METRO had the most advanced switches, three operators, and train cars with reinforced hulls and airbags for impact, that would only REDUCE the risk of a fatality, not eliminate it. Please understand that Science (of which I AM of that community) can only be applied to scenarios in which we KNOW of, can predict, or have evidence of. Even theoretically speaking, the telescoping nature of the impact could've been averted, but some other incident i.e., track derailment, debris on rail, gale force wind, etc. could've caused a fatality as well.

    If your axe to grind is with the train operator for leaving you on the platform two weeks ago, then deal with that issue and send a complaint to Metro. The accident yesterday is a few factors in magnitude than being left on the platform and requires ALL to help support in some form or fashion the SURVIVORS of this.

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  • R.B.

    I am just now catching up with some of these comments. Is Angry Al Gonzales always this wrong?