Train hits barrier at airport rail stop

Operator, 22 others are hurt when car derails at end of line

February 14, 2000|By Kurt Streeter | Kurt Streeter,SUN STAFF

A light rail train crashed into a barrier yesterday at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport stop, derailing the one-car train and injuring 22 passengers and the operator.

The incident occurred about 2: 30 p.m. when the Mass Transit Administration train that originated at Baltimore's Penn Station failed to stop at the concrete-and-steel barrier at the airport's international wing, the end of the line, said an MTA spokesman.

"It was a huge crash, a huge boom," said Charles Lynch III of Pasadena, who had taken a train to the airport with his 6-year-old son for a Tiger Scout tour of BWI and was waiting at the platform for a return trip when the accident happened.

"I saw it was approaching entirely too fast," Lynch said. "We rode it in, so we knew it was supposed to slow down as it approached."

Anticipating the crash, Lynch drew his son toward him. "I turned his face toward my stomach and started to take a few steps back, and it just kept coming -- 20, 30 miles an hour. It hit the barrier and sparks flew, rocks flew."

The train's normal speed should be 13 mph as it approaches the barrier, said Frank Fulton, an MTA spokesman.

After crashing, the train lifted into the air, then fell on the barrier, its front pushed about 6 feet skyward. A portion of the train's roof hit the terminal's overhang, punching a hole in the ceiling.

The barrier is about 10 feet past the terminal entrance.

Immediately after the crash, Lynch said, two passengers jumped from the train and helped one other person leave the car, then picked up their luggage and walked away.

Fulton said a man was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he was in serious condition last night. The hospital would not release the man's name.

The others suffered what appeared to be minor injuries and were taken to hospitals in the city and Anne Arundel County for observation, said Fulton, who would not release the operator's name.

A nursing supervisor at North Arundel Hospital in Glen Burnie said 14 people were taken there with minor injuries.

Other passengers were taken to St. Agnes HealthCare and Harbor Hospital Center, both in Baltimore, Fulton said.

Spokesmen at St. Agnes and Harbor said injuries were minor.

The National Transportation Safety Board and MTA police were investigating the accident last night.

Fulton said it was not known if the train was going too fast, if its brakes failed or if the operator had suffered an ailment.

The light rail extension at BWI began operating in 1997, when the international wing was built, Fulton said. He said no derailments had occurred at the stop until this incident.

Buses will be provided to take passengers from the terminal to the light rail station at the BWI Business Partnership station until repairs are made, said Anthony Brown, an MTA spokesman. Brown said repairs were not expected to be complete by this morning.

Sun staff writer Anne Haddad contributed to this article.

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