April 24 Metro derailment caused by human error, officials say

No one was injured in the April 24 derailment at Rosslyn. (Photo: Jay Korff)

Two cases of human error on Metro trains and buses have led to the removal of one employee and the recall of more than 90 buses, and now the agency is taking steps to rectify both issues.

At a meeting Thursday morning, the Metro board acknowledged that the April 24 derailment of a Blue Line train at the Rosslyn station was caused by human error. They also said that the timeframe to replace a fleet of older buses, two of which caught fire in April, is being accelerated.

"It is all about safety for our customers," Metro GM Richard Sarles said. "I felt it was much better to spend it now than waiting three years."

In mid-April, two Orion 6 Metrobuses caught fire in the span of a week, leading to the recall of 94 buses from that fleet. However, Stessel said that the buses are at the end of their service life and that WMATA has the money to replace them.

The fires, Metro says, were caused by human error in the form of incorrectly installed hoses. General design flaws also bear some brunt of the blame.

"The general manager has said he does not want to see them back in the system," Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said.

Safety investigators have since pressed the Metro board to move money and make the replacements sooner.

"The sooner they get this situation together, the better it is for us riders, because we pay the costs in the end," Metrobus rider Jobanna Spann said.

The Orion 6 buses were originally slated to be phased out in the next three years.

Metro also publicly acknowledged that the April 24 derailment of a Blue line train at the Rosslyn station was caused by human error.

The revelation comes more than two weeks after the train derailed that Tuesday night, causing delays and frustration for riders as they made their way home.

According to Stessel, crews were working on a switch problem outside Rosslyn Station when workers on the scene did not properly crank a track switch back into place.

"As a result, there was a slight gap in the running rail and the switch point, and that's what led to the derailment," Stessel said.

The track worker who WMATA says caused the derailment no longer works for the agency, Stessel added. Training programs have been updated since the derailment and a new safety bulletin has been issued to all workers who handle this type of maintenance.

No one was injured in the derailment and all passengers were safely offloaded the affected train. However, the derailment caused delays in the area for hours. By the next morning, normal service had resumed.

"We were just leaving the Rosslyn station, and all of a sudden the train started shaking," Metro rider Pilar Torres, who was on the train when it derailed, said.