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Rail News: Passenger Rail

NTSB investigating WMATA smoke-filled train incident


[Editor's note: Story updated with Downs' comments]

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) service is operating on a modified schedule today after an electrical problem yesterday afternoon caused smoke to fill rail cars in a tunnel near L'Enfant Plaza in Washington, D.C.

One passenger died and at least 80 others were hurt in the incident, according to local news media reports.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and local police investigations are ongoing, but NTSB investigators yesterday said an "electrical arcing event" occurred about 1,100 feet in front of a train shortly after it left the L'Enfant Plaza Station, The Washington Post reported. The train and tunnel filled with smoke. The train was about 800 feet into the tunnel when it abruptly stopped.

According to the NTSB, the arcing event involved cables that powered the train's third rail.

This afternoon, WMATA Chairman Tom Downs issued a statement to express condolences to the family of the passenger who died, and apologized to those who were injured or inconvenienced by the incident. The agency is cooperating with the NTSB's investigation and working to restore full service as soon as possible, he 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," Downs said. "The safety of each and every Metro rider and employee remains our absolute highest priority."

Photos related to the event can be viewed on NTSB's Twitter account.


Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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