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Page last updated at 00:55 GMT, Wednesday, 24 June 2009 01:55 UK

Crash subway 'warned over trains'

Safety officials say there are signs the emergency brakes were used

The Washington DC subway was urged to replace or upgrade aging trains three years before Monday's crash that killed nine people, investigators have said.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said the trains had continued running on the system despite a warning the board had given in 2006.

About 70 people were injured as a train ploughed into the back of a second, stationary one in evening rush hour.

Investigators said the moving train was in automatic mode at the time.

The collision happened above ground between Fort Totten and Takoma at 1700 (2200 BST).

The NTSB called for the replacement or upgrading of some carriages on the Metro system after investigating a 2004 accident which injured 20 passengers.

"We recommended to WMATA [Washington's Metro Area Transit Authority] to either retrofit those cars or phase them out of the fleet," NTSB's Debbie Hersman said.

"They have not been able to do that and our recommendation was not addressed."

Metro general manager John Catoe said the authority expected to receive proposals "over the next month or so" to replace the old carriages, but new trains were still years away from being installed.

He insisted the existing carriages were safe.

'Loud impact'

Ms Hersman also revealed that an emergency brake button was found pushed down in the train that caused into the stationary one.

However, she stressed it was not clear if the brake was engaged when the crash occurred or in the aftermath.

The fact the train was in automatic and not manual mode is standard procedure.

Investigators will be looking at mobile phone and text-messaging records from the train operator, also standard practice, she added.

The city's mayor Adrian Fenty said the crash was "the deadliest accident in the history of our Metro train transit system".

On Tuesday, Metro spokeswoman Candace Smith said two men and seven women had died, confirming early reports of the number of fatalities.

She said that five bodies had been recovered from the wreckage on Tuesday, in addition to the four removed on Monday.

I thought it was like the train bombings in London. There was smoke and dust everywhere
Passenger Abra Jeffers

The death toll had been revised down for several hours on Tuesday after Mr Fenty said just seven people had been killed.

Passenger Maya Maroto, who was on board the moving train, said it had been going at "full speed".

"I didn't hear any braking. Everything was just going normally. Then there was a very loud impact. We all fell out of our seats.

"Then the train filled up with smoke. I was coughing," she told the Associated Press.

Driver killed

Theroza Doshi told Reuters news agency: "There was no slowing down of the train, just a jerk. There was no attempt at braking.

"We just slammed into whatever we slammed into."

Passenger Abra Jeffers, 25, told the AFP news agency: "I was on the train that got hit. I thought it was an explosion. I thought it was like the train bombings in London. There was smoke and dust everywhere."

On Tuesday morning, Mr Fenty said two of the patients with critical injuries remained in hospital.

The driver of the moving train was among the dead, and was named as Jeanice McMillan, 42, by the Associated Press (AP) and the Washington Post.

Washington fire chief Dennis Rubin said a large crane had been used to separate mangled pieces of wreckage so that rescuers could search for injured or dead.

He said parts of the lower carriage were 70 to 80% compressed, and that rescuers did not know if there were still more bodies to be found.

A thorough search of the sidings and surrounding woodland had been made, he said.

Survivors of the crash describe the accident

Investigators have been trying to find recorders that would have details of the train's speed at the time of the crash and other information which could explain how the accident happened.

The accident happened at the peak of rush hour, at 1700 local time (2200 BST) on a busy commuter line.

But the trains involved were heading towards the centre of Washington rather than to the city's outlying areas.

This meant they were likely to have had fewer people on them, Ms Hersman as said.

The accident is the 33-year-old Metro network's first crash with any passenger fatalities since 1982 when three people were killed in a derailment.

Map showing location of crash


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SEE ALSO
US train crash deaths confirmed
23 Jun 09 |  Americas
Mayor reacts to Metro crash
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