My name is Robert Sumwalt and I am a Board Member of the National
Transportation Safety Board. I am honored to serve as chairman of the Board of
Inquiry for this public hearing.
Today we are opening a public hearing concerning the June 22, 2009 accident
involving the collision of two Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
(WMATA) trains on the Red Line near Fort Totten Station.
The hearing is being held for the purpose of supplementing the facts,
conditions, and circumstances surrounding this accident. This process will
assist the Safety Board in determining the probable cause of the accident and in
making any recommendations to prevent similar accidents in the future. No
determination of cause will be rendered during these proceedings.
I would like to acknowledge the family members of those who lost their lives
and those who survived this accident, who are present in our audience today and
who are watching via webcast. On behalf of the National Transportation Safety
Board and all those assembled here today for this important hearing, I offer our
sincere condolences for your loss and for the difficulties you and your families
have endured since the accident. As we continue our work to improve safety in
our nation's transit rail systems, we should keep this tragedy in mind and move
forward with a collective commitment to improve safety with the goal of
preventing this type of accident from ever happening again.
That is why we are here. When a transportation accident occurs, it is the
responsibility of the NTSB to find out what happened, determine why it happened,
and then make safety recommendations to prevent a similar accident from
happening in the future.
A public hearing is one tool the NTSB may use to help complete an
The purpose of this hearing is two-fold. First, the issues that will be
discussed at this hearing serve to assist the Safety Board in developing
additional factual information that will be analyzed for the purpose of
determining the probable cause of the accident. Secondly, this hearing also
provides the opportunity not only to the transportation community, but also to
the traveling public, to see a portion of the investigative process.
Neither I nor any other NTSB personnel will attempt during this hearing to
analyze the testimony received, nor will any attempt be made at this time to
determine the probable cause of the accident. Such analyses and cause
determinations will be made by the full Board after consideration of all of the
evidence gathered during our investigation. The final report on the accident,
reflecting the Safety Board's analyses and probable cause determinations, will
be considered for adoption by the full Board at a public meeting here at the
NTSB’s Board Room at a later date.
These proceedings tend to become highly technical affairs, but they are an
essential part of the process in completing an investigation and in seeking to
reassure the public that everything is being done to ensure the safety of the
Nation’s transit rail system.
The purpose of this inquiry is not to determine the rights or liability of
private parties, and matters dealing with such rights or liability will be
excluded from these proceedings. I want to emphasize that this hearing is
non-adversarial – it is a fact-finding examination.
During this hearing we will collect information that will assist the Safety
Board in its examination of safety issues arising from this accident.
Specifically, we will concentrate on the following issues:
- WMATA’s oversight of safety
- WMATA’s operational actions to address safety issues
- The Tri-State Oversight Committee (TOC) overview of WMATA
- State safety oversight of rail transit systems
- Federal safety oversight of rail passenger systems
- High Reliability Organizations (HROs)
At this point, I would like to introduce the other members of the Board of
- Dr. Joseph Kolly, Director of the NTSB’s Office of Research and Engineering,
- Mr. James Ritter, Acting Director of the NTSB’s Office of Railroad, Pipeline
and Hazardous Materials Investigations, and
- Mr. Ed Dobranetski, Investigator-in-Charge and Hearing Officer.
Members of the technical panel are as follows:
- Mr. Steve Klejst, NTSB’s Operations Group and Oversight Group Chairman
- Mr. Rick Downs, Crashworthiness Group Chairman
- Mr. Cy Gura, Track and Engineering Group Chairman
- Mr. Ruben Payan, Signal and Train Control Group Chairman
- Mr. Rick Narvell, Human Performance Group Chairman
- Mr. Dave Watson, Mechanical Group Chairman
- Mr. Pat Sullivan, Safety Recommendations
- Mr. Jim Southworth, Chief of the NTSB’s Railroad Division, and
- Mr. Mark Jones, Deputy Chief of the Railroad Division.
Ms. Bridget Serchak from the Safety Board's Office of Public Affairs is here
to assist in matters dealing with the news media.
Mr. Elias Kontanis from the NTSB’s Office of Transportation Disaster
Assistance will be assisting WMATA accident passengers and family members during
Ms. Nancy Mason and Ms. Denise Whitfield will provide administrative support,
Federal regulations provide for the designation of parties to an NTSB public
hearing. In accordance with these regulations, those persons, governmental
agencies, companies, and associations whose participation in the hearing is
deemed necessary and in the public interest are designated as parties. The
parties assisting the Safety Board in this hearing have been designated in
accordance with these regulations, and they have been selected for their
technical expertise in their respective fields.
I will now call the names of the parties to the hearing. As I call the name
of each party, I will ask the designated party spokesperson to please give his
or her name, title, and affiliation for the record:
- Federal Railroad Administration, Thomas McFarlin
- Federal Transit Administration, Michael Flanigon
- Tri-State Oversight Committee, Eric Madison
- Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Michael Taborn
- Amalgamated Transit Union, Jackie Jeter
- Washington, DC Fire and EMS Department, Lawrence Schultz
- Alstom Signaling, Inc., Neal Illenberg
- Ansaldo STS USA, Robert Pascoe, PE
I want to thank publicly all of the private and governmental agencies that
have supported the Safety Board throughout the investigation.
On February 17, 2010, the Board of Inquiry held a prehearing conference in
this Board Room. It was attended by the hearing’s Board of Inquiry, Technical
Panel and representatives of the parties to this hearing. During that
conference, the areas of inquiry and the scope of the issues to be explored at
this hearing were delineated.
As we begin
this morning, the Investigator-in-Charge of the accident investigation will
summarize certain facts about the accident and the investigative activities that
have taken place to date. Following this, the first witness will be called.
The witnesses have been selected because of their ability to provide the best
available information on the issues of transit rail safety pertinent to this
Each witness will testify under
oath and will serve on panels devoted to specific topic areas. The Technical
Panel will question the witnesses first, followed by each party spokesperson.
The Board of Inquiry will be the last to question the witnesses.
As Chairman of the Board of Inquiry, I will be responsible for the conduct of
the hearing. I will make all rulings on the admissibility of exhibits and
pertinence of proffered testimony, with the assistance of NTSB General Counsel,
Mr. Gary Halbert, seated behind me. All such rulings will be final.
The record of the investigation, including the transcript of the hearing, all
exhibits entered into the record, and the presentations, will become part of the
Safety Board's public docket and will be available on the Board’s website:
Witnesses who have completed their testimony should realize that they may be
subject to recall should the need arise. Therefore, witnesses should not leave
unless they have checked with the Hearing Officer, Mr. Dobranetski.
In closing, I ask that everyone please silence cell phones and other
electronic devices you may have with you. Please also make a mental note of the
exits from this room in the event they are needed in an emergency.
Mr. Dobranetski, are you ready to summarize the investigation and enter the
exhibits into the public docket? Please proceed.
[Dobranetski Investigation Summary]
Thank you. Now, Mr. Dobranetski, would you please call the witnesses on the