At least 16 hurt on derailed subway train in Washington

Published: Monday, January 8, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 7, 2007 at 11:04 p.m.

WASHINGTON — A subway train derailed Sunday near downtown Washington, sending 16 people to the hospital and prompting the rescue of 60 people from a tunnel, officials said.

The accident happened at about 3:45 p.m. near the underground Mount Vernon Square station, Metro spokeswoman Cathy Asato said. There were about 150 people on the train.

At least one person had a serious but not life-threatening injury, Asato said. The other injuries were mostly "bumps and bruises;" one of those with minor injuries was pregnant.

Part of the six-car train had pulled into the station when the fifth car left the track and hit the tunnel wall, Asato said. About 60 people in the last two cars had to wait about 45 minutes for firefighters to reach them and escort them through the tunnel on a catwalk.

Passengers in the first four cars were able to exit on their own through the front two cars, which were already at the station platform, Asato said.

There was no fire, Asato said. The cause of the derailment was being investigated.

Witnesses said people started to panic when the six-car train began shaking, and some passengers began running to the back of the train.

"I was in a cab that actually shattered — the front part of it — those windows in between the two cars," said rider Lauren Sprigg.

Service on two lines was halted in both directions around the station, and Asato said a shuttle bus would take passengers around the accident scene. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were headed to the scene. Metro officials said they were waiting to move the train and clean up debris until investigators arrived.

"We can't move anything until NTSB shows," said Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein.

The train operator was undergoing routine drug and alcohol tests, Asato said. The woman had been operating Metro trains since 2000.

In November, two Metro track workers were struck and killed by an out-of-service train.

An investigation found the train operator failed to follow procedures. Another Metro worker was struck and killed in May.

In 2004, a train rolled backward and hit another, injuring 20 people.

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