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Metro death: Contractor killed in welding accident

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WASHINGTON (WJLA) - There are still questions about the early Sunday morning accident that killed a contract worker and left two Metro employees injured.

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The crew was replacing a section of track at Union Station, when a small fire and blast erupted. A 40-foot section of track struck the men.

It happened just after midnight on Sunday morning.

On Sunday afternoon, Metro identified the contractor as Harold Ingram,  41, of New Jersey. He worked for Holland Welding, which is based out of Illinois, and died at an area hospital. Two WMATA employees are being treated for serious but non-life threatening injuries.

Metro is promising a full investigation, but an NTSB spokesperson tells ABC7 that, due to furloughs in the government shutdown, the agency will not send investigators to the accident site and NTSB officials will not be available to talk about the WMATA incident.

The head of the Railroad Workers’ Union says with the NTSB sidelined due to the government shutdown, she is concerned that nobody is looking over Metro’s shoulder.

"It's very frustrating, because the NTSB does oversee the safety of the workers... I would feel more comfortable if an outside entity were looking into what happened," said Union President Jackie Jeter.

After a January 2010 accident that left two Metro workers dead, the NTSB said Metro did not have adequate safeguards in place. And after a deadly crash in 2009 that left nine people dead, the agency said Metro lacked a safety culture.

"I will tell anybody that I think WMATA is a safer environment than it was on the June 22, 2009...but I don't think we're there yet," Jeter added.

We posed the question to riders, most of whom thought it was okay for Metro to conduct its own investigation.

"I trust Metro, said rider Ari. "It's turned a leaf over the past few years."

But others disagreed.

"I think that they should have an independent investigation," said rider Clarence Simon.

There is a Metro watchdog group called the TOC, which stands for the “Tri-State Oversight Committee.” That group’s chairman says it will monitor Metro’s investigation.

And as for the company that employed the contract worker who died, it is also taking part in an investigation into what happened that morning.

Since the accident, Metro has issued the following statement:

Metro releases preliminary findings of investigation into overnight construction accident in Red Line work zone

The investigation into the cause of a fatal overnight construction accident on the Red Line is ongoing. The investigation team, led by Metro's Chief Safety Officer, has authorized the release of the following facts and preliminary findings:

The incident occurred shortly after midnight, Sunday, October 6, 2013, in a work zone on the outbound (Glenmont direction) track between Union Station and Judiciary Square. The incident location is closer to Union Station, approximately 400 feet from the platform.

Contractors and WMATA employers were performing rail renewal, a process that involves removing old sections of rail, installing new sections of rail and related activity such as welding and grinding.

At approximately 12:03 a.m., there was a fire and loud noise that originated near heavy track equipment used to weld rail sections together into a continuous strip.

The fire and loud noise originated approximately 70 to 80 feet from the injured workers. The root cause of the fire/noise has not yet been determined. It is not yet known if there was a fluid leak or another mechanical issue. All contractor-owned and WMATA equipment at the site is being inspected at this time.

The fire was extinguished by workers using a handheld fire extinguisher.

The incident caused a 40-foot section of rail to move, striking three workers (two WMATA employees and a contractor). It is not yet known what caused the piece of rail to move.

The two WMATA employees -- one track worker and one supervisor -- suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries from being struck by the piece of rail. They were transported to local hospitals.

The contractor, an employee of Holland Co., was fatally injured as a result of being struck by the piece of rail. Holland Co. provides welding services for transit systems and railroads. The contractor has been identified as Harold Ingrham, age 41, of New Jersey.

The NTSB and Tri-State Oversight Committee were notified of the incident.

Following the incident, all Red Line track work was suspended, and a safety "stand down" was ordered to brief Red Line crews on the incident, offer counseling services, and reinstruct employees on safety procedures.

Free shuttle buses will continue to operate between Dupont Circle and NoMa-Gallaudet stations until system closing tonight. Normal rail service will be restored Monday morning.

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