Washington, DC Subway Accident Kills Three, Jan 1982
CAPITAL'S 1st SUBWAY ACCIDENT KILLS 3
METRO TRAIN DERAILS.
Washington (AP) -- What started as a minor mishap turned into slow-motion terror when a subway operator backed a packed train that had started down the wrong track into a concrete divider, killing three people and injuring two dozen others.
The first fatal accident on the capital's showcase subway system occurred during the afternoon rush hour Wednesday, less than 30 minutes after an Air Florida jet crashed into a bridge in a severe snowstorm and plunged into the Potomac River killing 80 people.
JOE SHEARD, director of rail operations for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority -- METRO -- said it started when a switch being operated manually was set the wrong way and headed the train down the wrong track near the Smithsonian station.
When the operator slowly backed up the train, the lead car moved diagonally because its front wheels remained on the wrong track while its rear wheels were rolling down the other track.
That skewing movement caused the car to impale itself on a concrete divider separating the two rails, ripping open a 15-foot section of the car wall, buckling the roof and tearing up about eight sets of seats.
CODY PFANSTIEHL, a Metro spokesman, said 155 people, including up to 80 standees, could have been crowded into the car. The train had six cars.
It took firemen using power tools a half hour to cut through the car's walls to free several pinned-in passengers and up to two hours to evacuate everyone through the tunnels.
When Metro officials took reporters on a tour of the scene Wednesday night, the only remnants of the commuters were a knitted scarf and a paperback book, "The Wilderness Reader," lying beside the car.
Passengers, many of them federal workers sent home early because of heavy snow, told of panic in the crowded car.
The motorman said over an intercom, "Let me know when I'm cleared," said passenger SUSAN LARRICK, 24, of Silver Spring, Md.
"It was impossible to fall ... It was something out of a slow-motion movie," said ARTHUR HASTINGS of Bowie, Md. "It split open like a can. People were screaming, yelling."
"People were screaming when they saw the car going into the tall divider," said MARK LYSNE, 28, of Falls Church, Va.
"There was nothing wrong until they started backing up."
RICHARD PAGE, general manager of transit authority, said an independent board of inquiry composed of four subway experst from New York, Chicago and San Francisco will investigate the crash to "examine our procedures and correct anything that might need correcting."
Authorities did not immediately release the identities of the victims, two women and a man.
The crash brough two of the subway's three lines to a standstill. Limited service resumed later at the ends of the subway that reach into Maryland and Virginia. Officials said they hope to restore full service by Monday.
The Capital Annapolis Maryland 1982-01-14