What caused fatal Metro incident?

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its probable cause report on the deadly smoke incident at the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station and dozens of safety recommendations.

The report said the probable cause for arcing insulator that caused the smoke on January 12, 2015 was "prolonged short circuit that consumed power system components” that resulted from “ineffective inspection and maintenance practices.”

The January 12, 2015 incident left 61-year-old Carol Glover dead and injured 91 people when a Yellow Line train got stuck in a tunnel between L’Enfant Plaza station and the Potomac River bridge and smoke poured into the train.

The report added those ineffective practices were allowed to continue because of "(1) the failure of WMATA senior management to proactively assess and mitigate foreseeable safety risks, and (2) the inadequate safety oversight by the Tri-State Oversight Committee and the Federal Transit Administration."

"We are concerned that many problems keep occurring and reoccurring and, to that extent, they are certainly more than foreseeable,” said NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart.

The report stated that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has a “lack of a safety culture”.

To correct that, the NTSB report made 31 safety recommendations. Most of them were for WMATA, but other recommendations were for the Federal Transit Administration, the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, the mayor of the District of Columbia, the D.C. Office of Unified Communications, and the National Capital Region Emergency Preparedness Council.

"Today’s extensive list of recommendations, if acted upon, will result in safer operations on Metro rail. But many of them are remedial corrective actions that can and should have required and enforced by an effective safety oversight agency before they caused an accident,” said Hart.

The NTSB also raised concerns about the ability of WMATA "to apply the information gained since 1982 through 12 accidents previously investigated by the NTSB, eight of which involved fatalities."

Chairman Hart also recommended that the federal safety oversight of the Federal Transit Administration is inadequate and it should be transferred to the Federal Railroad Administration.

"They have the ability to set regulations, inspect against those regulations and enforce against those regulations."

But despite the report, Chairman Hart said he has confidence under Metro’s leadership under Paul Wiedefeld, "The new leadership has already shown willingness and ability to take unprecedented steps to make the system safer, which is what we’re all about."

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