Metro Technician Deleted Report of Track Defect That Led to Derailment

Metro Technician Deleted Report of Track Defect That Led to Derailment
An image from the report.

A failed rail fastener caused the August 6 derailment of a passenger-less Metro train, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority says in a report about the first part of its investigation into the incident, which caused chaos throughout the subway system. The defect was detected on July 9, WMATA’s report says, but a technician “erroneously deleted the defect” from a report, “believing it to be a routine anomaly.”

The investigation also revealed that Metro lacked a system to compare data from the vehicle that identified the defect with the technician’s report.

The 47-page report also contains question-and-answer-style reports with two “track walkers”—names redacted—who inspected the track on August 6 and said they were unaware of the defect.

WMATA says it has taken “immediate safety actions,” is reworking its quality processes, and that it is accepting responsibility with a series of “Safety stand-downs, or brief stoppages in work for safety critical meetings” that will “re-emphasize the importance of walking track inspections.”

Now the investigation moves to WMATA’s safety department, which is expected to deliver a draft investigation late next month. Interim general manager Jack Requa has asked WMATA’s chief safety officer James M. Dougherty to review the safety depart’s role in the derailment.

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Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously the news editor and lead media reporter for the Poynter Institute, arts editor for the now completely vanished TBD.com, and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.