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Metro System Failure, Operator Error May Have Caused Red-Line Tragedy

Posted By Regan Zambri & Long || 23-Jun-2009

Posted by: Salvatore J. Zambri, Esquire

The death toll from yesterday’s horrific Metro collision continues to rise.  As of now, nine have been pronounced dead, and many dozens more are seriously injured.  As mentioned in yesterday’s blog, system failure and operator error could be two causes of the incident.  The Washington Post has now reported that "[e]xperts familiar with Metro’s operations focused last night on a failure of the signal system and operator error as likely causes of yesterday’s fatal Red Line crash."

The Metro system was designed so that a crash like the one yesterday could never happen.  The report notes that the system has been couched as a "fail-safe computerized signal system that is supposed to prevent trains from colliding. The agency’s trains are run by onboard computers that control speed and braking. Another electronic system detects the position of trains to maintain a safe distance between them. If they get too close, the computers automatically apply the brakes, stopping the trains."

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The "fail-safe" system, however, failed before, at least twice in recent years.  The operators of those prior trains were paying attention and applied the brakes when the system did not automatically apply them. Crashes were avoided.  Early investigation suggests that the driver of the train in yesterday’s collision did not apply the emergency brakes, based on the extent of the damage and independent witnesses testimony regarding the speed of the train.

If the operator did not apply the emergency brakes, one must wonder why not?  The trains were not in a tunnel, they were outside, and the weather was clear.  Train operators are in the cabs of trains to observe dangers situations and react appropriately. Perhaps she wrongly relied on a system that was anything but fail-safe.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those who have died, as well as to those who have been injured.  For those injured, we wish you a speedy recovery.  For the families of those who died, we wish you peace.

Mr. Zambri has been rated by Washingtonian magazine as a "Big Gun" and among the "top 1%" of all lawyers in the Washington metropolitan area.  The magazine also describes him as "one of Washington’s best–most honest and effective lawyers" who specializes in personal injury matters.  He has successfully litigated multiple cases against Metro and other automobile owners.  He has authored an article regarding how automobile collision cases are evaluated.  To read it, please click here.

Many Americans are killed or injured each year in vehicular collisions.  If you want more information about your legal rights, please email Mr. Zambri at szambri@reganfirm.com or call him at 202-822-1899.

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