The National Transportation Safety Board has announced that it is taking over the investigation of Monday’s fatal crash of two trains on the Washington Metro’s Red Line. The NTSB involvement can only be a good thing. First, the NTSB has significant resources and has a history of not being afraid to mix it up with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Administration.
I first became involved in representing train accident victims in 1996 when I represented a Baltimore, Maryland family who lost their son in the fatal Amtrak/ MARC Maryland Rail Commuter train crash on February 16, 1996 in Chase, Maryland. In that accident just outside of Washington, 12 people were killed and the NTSB conducted a very comprehensive investigation. In the 1996 accident investigation, the NTSB determined driver error and signal malfunction as the cause.
History has shown that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Administration does not always like to point a finger at itself. Over the past three decades, the NTSB has criticized the agency for papering over its safety deficiencies and failing to take corrective action from past mistakes. Just yesterday, Deborah A.P. Hersman, chairman designate of the NTSB, criticized the agency for failing to follow its three year old recommendation that the aging fleet be phased out or retrofitted. This week’s tragic accident marks the sixth fatal incident involving the DC Metro.
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