Welcome to the Boardroom of the National Transportation Safety
Board. I am Christopher Hart, and it is
my privilege to serve as Chairman of the NTSB and of this board of
inquiry. I am joined today by my
colleagues: Vice Chairman Bella Dinh-Zarr, Member Robert Sumwalt, and Member
Earl Weener. Over the next two days we will hear testimony relating to an
accident on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (or WMATA’s)
Metrorail system that exposed hundreds of passengers to heavy smoke on January
In a few minutes, Investigator-in-Charge Joe Gordon
will present a summary of the accident.
For the NTSB, this accident was close to home: It occurred beneath
this building, and many of the staff here today, including members of this
Board, ride Metrorail trains regularly. It underscored a core NTSB
position: While we are acutely aware and appreciative of the convenience that
mass transit provides, safety is always more important than convenience. Unfortunately,
the events of January 12 clearly demonstrated that the attention that was given
to safety was inadequate.
As a result of this accident, 86 passengers were transported
to local medical facilities for treatment; another nine passengers sought medical
attention; and, tragically, one passenger died.
On behalf of the entire NTSB, I offer our
condolences to the family and friends of the passenger whose life was lost. We know that nothing can replace your loved
one, and we hope our work will not only serve to answer some of your questions,
but will also help prevent this from happening again. For those who were injured, we wish you well
during your recovery.
Our objective in this hearing, and throughout this
investigation, is to determine what went wrong, so that we can recommend ways
to help prevent similar tragedies in the future. We have begun to do so based
on the facts we have found to date.
On February 11, the NTSB
issued urgent recommendations to WMATA, the Federal Transit Administration, and
the American Public Transportation Association, concerning tunnel ventilation
We also issued a recommendation on June
8 to WMATA, concerning potential electrical short circuiting hazards.
We are also mindful that yesterday was
the sixth anniversary of the crash near WMATA’s Fort Totten station that killed
nine people and sent 52 others to local hospitals. While progress has been made
on our recommendations stemming from the Fort Totten investigation, six years
later we are still encountering concerns that we addressed in these
This hearing will elicit additional
factual information about the L’Enfant Plaza accident as part of our ongoing
investigation. At a future date, we will
issue an accident report that will include a determination of probable cause
and any further safety recommendations that are warranted.
NTSB investigations are aided by the
participation of parties. The NTSB designates as parties those organizations or
individuals whose participation is necessary in the public interest, and whose
special knowledge will contribute to the development of pertinent evidence.
At a pre-hearing conference on June 2,
2015, the NTSB and the parties to this hearing agreed upon the issues to be
discussed, the list of witnesses who would testify, and the exhibits to which
we will refer today and tomorrow. We will be adding additional exhibits to that list of exhibits.
Although we are still
gathering evidence regarding all aspects of this accident, testimony and
questioning in this hearing will be limited to the four broad issue areas
outlined in the hearing agenda:
1. State of WMATA’s Infrastructure;
2. Emergency Response Efforts;
3. WMATA’s Organizational Culture; and
4. Federal Transit Administration and
Tri-State Oversight Committee Efforts to Address Public Transportation Safety.
I will now introduce the parties. As I
call the name of each party, I ask the designated spokesperson to identify
themselves and their affiliation with the party they represent, and to introduce
others seated at their table.
Tri-State Oversight Committee (TOC)
Federal Transit Administration (FTA)
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)
District of Columbia Emergency Medical Services (DC EMS)
Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU Local 689)
International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF Local 36)
I thank all of the parties for their
assistance and cooperation with the NTSB investigation thus far. We appreciate
your valuable time, and we look forward to working with you further as the
The order of the hearing will be as follows:
Hearing Officer Kris Poland will follow
my remarks with a safety briefing, some scheduling information, and a
description of the exhibits to be used during the hearing. We will then turn to Investigator-In-Charge Joe
Gordon, who will provide an overview of this accident.
Following the overview, we will proceed
in sequence through the issue areas that I previously identified.
For each issue area, Dr. Poland will
introduce NTSB technical panelists and will swear in witnesses. The witnesses
have been pre-qualified and their qualifications and biographical information
are available on the NTSB website.
The witnesses will then be questioned by
the NTSB technical panel, then by the spokesperson for each party, and finally
by the Board of Inquiry.
After one round of questions, due to
time constraints, a second round will be limited to pertinent questions that
serve to clarify the record or to address any new matter that was raised in the
first round. Please raise your hand and
I will determine whether the issue warrants a second round of questions.
As Chairman of the Board of Inquiry, I
will make all rulings on the admissibility of exhibits, appropriateness of
questions, and pertinence of proffered testimony, with the assistance of NTSB
General Counsel David Tochen, who is seated behind me. All such rulings will be
I must emphasize that NTSB
investigations are, by regulation, fact-finding proceedings with no adverse
parties. The Board does not assign fault or blame for an accident or incident.
Witnesses should provide only the facts
as they understand them, and they may not speculate or give any analysis. Questions will be limited to the four issue
areas already described.
NTSB participants will not ask, and
party representatives will not be permitted to ask, questions that call for
speculation or analysis, or that are related to fault, outside litigation, or
legal liability in general.
The exhibits contain redactions, noted
with opaque boxes, which are the result of negotiations between the parties and
the NTSB regarding the disclosure of information claimed to be personally
identifiable, security sensitive, or proprietary information.
The NTSB is authorized by statute to
disclose information to carry out its mission, but we protect confidentiality and
proprietary information to the greatest extent possible. While the NTSB has
access to all of the information, the exhibits disclose to the public relevant
materials that are part of the investigation and/or will be discussed at the
A white paper explaining our authority
to use proprietary information is available on the NTSB website.
Dr. Poland will now provide important
safety and scheduling information and describe the exhibits. Dr. Poland.