Several killed after subway trains collide in Washington D.C.

June 23rd, 2009 - 1:17 pm ICT by admin  

WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — Two subway trains collided in Washington D.C. during rush hour on Monday afternoon, a spokesman for D.C. Metro told BNO News. By 11.45 p.m., nine people were reported dead while more than 75 others were left injured.

The incident happened at 5.05 p.m. local time when one train crashed into a second train which stood still on the same track. The second train is believed to have stood still for about 10 minutes prior to the accident. Both trains had 6 cars and were headed toward Shady Grove Metrorail station. People are being urged to avoid the area (click here for more information on travel advice).

D.C. Fire Chief Dennis Rubin confirmed, during a news conference at 8.30 p.m., that six people had died. He said 76 people were transported to area hospitals after the accident, most of them with only minor injuries.

At 11.45 p.m., WJLA-TV reported that the death had risen to at least nine. Further details on the three new fatalities were not immediately available.

Rubin said six people remained in critical condition, 14 others were said to have moderate to serious injuries. Fifty-six others were described as “green tags,” meaning they had only minor injuries.

Among the fatalities is the female train operator of one of the trains, a spokesman for D.C. Metro told BNO News. Fire Chief Rubin said he did not know if any bodies were still trapped inside.

Emergency services first believed it was a minor incident, one official said. When first responders arrived at the scene, the scale of the disaster quickly became apparent. D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty said it was the deadliest accident in Metro history. “The scene is as horrific as you can imagine,” Fenty told reporters.

“We are extremely saddened that there are fatalities as a result of this accident, which has touched our Metro family,” Metro General Manager John Catoe said in a written statement.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends affected by this tragedy,” President Obama said in a written statement released by the White House. “I want to thank the brave first responders who arrived immediately to save lives,” he added. He said his staff had been in touch with the office of Mayor Fenty and would continue to monitor the situation. (Click here to read President Obama’s full statement on the train crash)

It is the first Metro accident involving customer fatalities since 1983 when 3 people died as the result of a derailment between the Federal Triangle and Smithsonian Metrorail stations. The only other time that Metrorail had a collision was in 2004 when two trains collided at the Woodley Park/Zoo-Adams Morgan Metrorail station, in which several people were injured.

Dozens of emergency vehicles were at the scene and multiple mass casualty units responded. Officials said more than 200 firefighters were assisting at the scene, which is equal to a 3-alarm response. Firefighters from nearby cities were called in to ensure the safety in other parts of the capital. Local media outlets said school buses were helping injured people being transported to hospitals.

Multiple federal agencies such as the FBI are at the scene. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the accident and arrived on the scene at about 8 p.m., a spokesman told BNO News from the crash site.

There is no official word on what may have caused the accident but officials say that terrorism or foil play is not suspected. “At this early stage, we do not have any clear indication of an act of terrorism,” a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security said. “We will continue to monitor closely and provide any assistance needed,” she added.

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