DC metro derailments could indicate problems in other cities’ transit systems, NTSB boss says

A Blue Line derailment that injured one person and prompted DC metro to yank 60% of its railcars on Sunday "could have been catastrophic" – and could signal a much larger problem nationwide, according to a federal agency.

READ MORE: DC Metro pulls 60 percent of fleet due to derailment safety concerns

WMATA scrambled after being ordered by the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission to halt its 7000-series railcars, nearly 60% of its fleet, due to safety concerns.

FOX 5 has learned as part of the ongoing investigation that there have been 52 total failures flagged since 2017, including 21 failures that have been identified since Friday.

The safety commission is now investigating what exactly caused the failures like the one that happened on the Blue Line last week.

During a Monday morning press conference, National Transit Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy said the incident – which actually included three derailments – had significant potential for "fatalities and injuries."

She also said this could be a warning for other American rail systems.

READ MORE: DC Metro train derailed at least 3 times in same day prior to service being suspended, NTSB says

"We may at some point issue an urgent recommendation. I’d say if you’re a transit agency operating in the United States, and you’re listening, make sure you’re checking your cars as well. This is something we’re going to be looking at in the course of this investigation to determine if there are more systemic issues throughout the U.S. and throughout the transit systems operating in the U.S," Homendy said.

Investigators have not yet identified the specific issue causing the failures, but they've honed in on wheel assemblies as a major concern. 

It was not immediately clear how many transit systems in the U.S. might be using the railcars in question.

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According to Homendy, WMATA noticed the problem with the Kawasaki 7000 series railcars as early as 2017, when they registered two failures.

The number of failures up to 2021 increased each year – with two in 2018, four in 2019, and five in 2020.

In 2021, the number of failures mushroomed to 39.

WMATA says Red Line trains will run every 15 minutes and all other trains will run every 30 minutes stating Tuesday and continuing through at least Sunday.

WMATA has not responded to FOX 5's request for comment.