NTSB determines probable cause of 2009 fatal transit collision

August 5, 2010

Failure of a track circuit module is the probable cause of a fatal 2009 train crash on the Red Line in Washington, D.C., according to an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

NTSB said it plans to release in the next few weeks the full report of its investigation into the fatal collision of two Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority trains. A synopsis of the report states that failure of the track circuit module caused the automatic train control system to lose detection of one train on June 29, 2009, allowing a second train to strike it from the rear. Nine people aboard the second train were killed as a result, including the train operator, and dozens were injured.

The agency said a contributing factor to the crash was WMATA's failure to ensure that a verification test developed after a 2005 incident was used systemwide. Additional contributing factors include a "lack of a safety culture within WMATA, ineffective safety oversight by the WMATA Board of Directors and the Tri-State Oversight Committee, and the Federal Transit Administration's lack of statutory authority to provide federal safety oversight," according to the NTSB press release.