At least seven people were killed and scores of others injured Monday when two D.C. commuter trains slammed into one another during evening rush hour.
"There are already four confirmed fatalities," Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty said at a hastily arranged news conference. "This would be the deadliest accident in the history of our metro train transit system."
Before long, that number had grown by three, and the list of those injured rose to 76 people. The disaster drew hundreds of emergency-response workers from throughout the region who rushed to quell the pandemonium in the northeast section of the U.S. capital. Paramedics shuttled injured passengers down the tracks on stretchers and gurneys, while other rescuers used special tools to cut through the exoskeleton of the cars to get to those inside.
The crash occurred at about 5 p.m. near the Fort Totten Metro station, on the cusp of the D.C.-Maryland border. A six-car train stopped near the Fort Totten station on the Metro's busy Red Line was rear-ended by another six-car train on the same track. The impact launched the first car of the oncoming train atop the stopped cars ahead of it, tearing open the passenger compartment and leaving a two-level snarl of debris.
Witnesses say victims trapped in the crumpled rail cars banged on windows and doors until rescue workers arrived to free them, propping ladders up to the upper train cars to help survivors escape. Seats and other wreckage spilled onto the track.
Debbie Hersman of the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday that the subway train that plowed into another, causing the crash, was part of an aging fleet that federal regulators had recommended three years ago be phased out or retrofitted.
The Metrorail transit system "was not able to do what we asked them to do," Hersman said at a news conference.
Officials don't expect to know what caused the crash. Hersman said investigators expect to recover recorders in hopes that they will provide valuable information that might help determine why the crash occurred. However, the train triggered the collision was part of an old "thousand-series" fleet that was not equipped with the devices, she said at a news conference.