Railroad Accident Report: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority L’Enfant Plaza Station Electrical Arcing and Smoke Accident, Washington, D.C., January 12, 2015

On January 12, 2015, at 3:15 p.m. eastern standard time, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) southbound Yellow Line train 302, with about 380 passengers on board, stopped after encountering heavy smoke in the tunnel between the L’Enfant Plaza station and the Potomac River bridge in Washington, DC. The operator of train 302 told the Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) that the train was filling with smoke and he needed to return to the station. The ROCC allowed train 510, following train 302, to enter the L’Enfant Plaza station, which also was filling with smoke. Train 302 was unable to return to the station before power to the electrified third rail, which supplied the train’s propulsion power, was lost. Some passengers on train 302 evacuated the train on their own, and others were assisted in evacuating by first responders from the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. As a result of the accident, 91 people were injured, including passengers, emergency responders, and WMATA employees, and one passenger died. WMATA estimated the total damages to be $120,000. The safety issues and conditions identified in this accident, which illustrate WMATA’s lack of a safety culture, are the WMATA response to smoke reports, tunnel ventilation, railcar ventilation, emergency response, and oversight and management of WMATA. The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority L’Enfant Plaza station electrical arcing and smoke accident was a prolonged short circuit that consumed power system components resulting from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) ineffective inspection and maintenance practices. The ineffective practices persisted as the result of (1) the failure of WMATA senior management to proactively assess and mitigate foreseeable safety risks and (2) the inadequate safety oversight by the Tri-State Oversight Committee and the Federal Transit Administration. Contributing to the accident were WMATA’s failure to follow established procedures and the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department’s being unprepared to respond to a mass casualty event on the WMATA underground system. As a result of the investigation of this accident, the National Transportation Safety Board makes safety recommendations to the Federal Transit Administration, the mayor of the District of Columbia, the District of Columbia Office of Unified Communications, the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

Language

  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; Maps; Photos; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 166p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01603671
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: NTSB/RAR-16/01, PB2016-103217, Notation 8619C; Accident ID: DCA15FR004
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jun 8 2016 9:53AM