When Tania got here to, her neck was wedged between the doorways of the metro, her head poking out of the wreckage, the scent of blood curling into her nostrils.

Our bodies strewn on high of her, her outstretched arms felt what gave the impression to be the straps of her sister’s backpack. As she pulled, she mentioned, she found they had been the entrails of one other passenger.

Tania now spends her days within the hospital, unable to stroll, her shattered pelvis held collectively by a metallic contraption, 4 screws poking out of every aspect of her physique. Above her hospital mattress is a photograph of her 22-year-old sister Nancy — one in all 26 individuals who died within the metro crash that evening.

Quickly after, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico, who positions himself as a champion of the poor and an enemy of the elite, apologized to the victims’ households and urged endurance whereas officers examined what went unsuitable, and who was responsible.

“The standard, hard-working, good folks perceive that, sadly, this stuff occur,” he mentioned throughout a information convention on Tuesday.

However a New York Occasions investigation — based mostly on years of presidency data, interviews with individuals who labored on the development, and skilled evaluation of proof from the crash website — has discovered critical flaws within the primary development of the metro that seem to have led on to its collapse.

The catastrophe has already spiraled right into a political disaster, threatening to ensnare two of the nation’s strongest figures: the president’s overseas secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, and one of many world’s wealthiest businessmen, Carlos Slim.

Mr. Ebrard was mayor of Mexico Metropolis when the brand new metro line, often known as the “Golden Line,” was constructed, a heralded enlargement of the second largest subway within the Americas that might increase his credentials for a potential presidential run. And Mr. Slim’s development firm, Carso Infrastructure and Development, constructed the portion of the road that collapsed — the agency’s first rail undertaking, paving the best way for extra.

The Occasions took hundreds of pictures of the crash website and shared the proof with a number of main engineers who reached the identical conclusion: The metal studs that had been important to the power of the overpass — linchpins of the whole construction — seem to have failed due to unhealthy welds, essential errors that probably brought on the crash.

That is likely one of the major explanations being thought-about by Mexico Metropolis officers, in response to a number of folks conversant in the official investigations into the catastrophe, and it underscores a sample of political expediency and haphazard work because the metro was being constructed.


Now Mr. Slim’s firm is constructing a major a part of one other signature undertaking — Tren Maya, a 950-mile railway championed by Mr. López Obrador that’s imagined to revitalize southern Mexico and assist cement his legacy as president. However some engineers engaged on it say they’re encountering issues which can be just like those they confronted once they constructed the subway that collapsed.

The Occasions reviewed hundreds of pages of inside authorities and company paperwork on the metro’s troubled historical past, discovering greater than a decade of warnings and issues about security earlier than the deadly crash.

    In a rush to complete, the town demanded that development corporations open the subway nicely earlier than Mr. Ebrard’s time period as mayor led to 2012. The scramble led to a frenzied development course of that started earlier than a grasp plan had been finalized and produced a metro line with defects from the beginning. The outcry over the issues was so intense that Mr. Ebrard finally moved in another country for 14 months, abandoning what he known as a “political witch hunt.”

    Federal auditors discovered that the town “licensed poor high quality work” at the same time as the road was being constructed. The metro was licensed lower than an hour earlier than it was inaugurated, regardless that hundreds of items of labor had not been accomplished, in response to a 2014 investigation by the town’s Legislative Meeting.

    Throughout an inspection after a significant earthquake in 2017, the town discovered errors within the unique development of the part constructed by Mr. Slim’s firm, together with incorrectly poured concrete and lacking metal elements, in response to an unreleased authorities doc from 2017.



First responders on the tracks on the morning after the collapse.Alejandro Cegarra for The New York Occasions

The evening of the crash, Tania mentioned the metro shook a lot “it was prefer it was dancing.”

That very same phrase had been used seven years in the past — when metropolis officers grew so involved in regards to the new subway, often known as Line 12, that they shut down a part of it in 2014 — solely about 17 months after it was inaugurated.

“The road was dancing,” mentioned Joel Ortega, the metro director on the time. The practice, he mentioned, “was floating over the tracks.”

When Mr. Ebrard introduced the brand new metro on an August day in 2007, he topped it the “Golden Line,” promising to construct essentially the most trendy stretch of subway in Latin America, with entry for disabled riders, web, day care facilities — even a museum.

Mr. Ebrard vowed that it might change the lives of poor and marginalized folks, providing the younger mayor an opportunity to go away his stamp on the Mexican capital.

“It was an awesome social undertaking,” mentioned Moisés Poblanno, who labored for Mr. Ebrard on the time and stays a detailed aide. “Marcelo did plenty of issues in authorities however a very powerful, by far, was Line 12.”

His ambitions ran parallel to these of one other large in Mexican society: Mr. Slim, the magnate who sought to increase his empire into the profitable rail business. Line 12 was his firm’s preliminary enterprise into the sector.

“I’m at all times making an attempt to construct up expertise on our résumé,” Antonio Gómez García, chief government of Group Carso, Mr. Slim’s sprawling conglomerate, mentioned in an interview. “Taking part within the development of the road, or in any bid of this sort and profitable it, means that you can be part of the subsequent one.”

However main issues with the subway emerged early on. Pushing to complete earlier than Mr. Ebrard left workplace, the town purchased practice vehicles that arrived rapidly however weren’t suitable with the rail line — the wheels didn’t match correctly on the observe. The end result was a relentless pounding, warping and rippling of what ought to have been easy metal observe.

Lower than a 12 months after certifying the road as protected, auditors produced a report documenting a litany of issues — cracked and damaged elements, deformed tracks and a relentless pummeling of the tracks.


Issues With Line 12

Authorities stories warned of widespread issues with the road earlier than it collapsed.





Sections of the rails had been deformed, uneven or cracked.

Trains had been shorter than what the observe was designed for. The wheels had been made with a distinct customary than the rails, elevating compatibility points.

The sleepers — horizontal helps below the rails — confirmed cracks, fissures and indicators of poor manufacturing or set up.

The quantity of rocky ballast that cushioned and sealed the construction was inadequate in massive sections of the observe.

Trains had been shorter than what the observe was designed for. The wheels had been made with a distinct customary than the rails, elevating compatibility points.

Sections of the rails had been deformed, uneven or cracked.

The quantity of rocky ballast that cushioned and sealed the construction was inadequate in massive sections of the observe.

The sleepers — horizontal helps below the rails — confirmed cracks, fissures and indicators of poor manufacturing or set up.

Trains had been shorter than what the observe was designed for. The wheels had been made with a distinct customary than the rails, elevating compatibility points.

Sections of the rails had been deformed, uneven or cracked.

The sleepers — horizontal helps below the rails — confirmed cracks, fissures and indicators of poor manufacturing or set up.

The quantity of rocky ballast that cushioned and sealed the construction was inadequate in massive sections of the observe.

Trains had been shorter than what the observe was designed for. The wheels had been made with a distinct customary than the rails, elevating compatibility points.

Sections of the rails had been deformed, uneven or cracked.

The sleepers — horizontal helps below the rails — confirmed cracks, fissures and indicators of poor manufacturing or set up.

The quantity of rocky ballast that cushioned and sealed the construction was inadequate in massive sections of the observe.


Sources: Authorities stories and skilled testimony.

The injury had turn out to be so extreme that it “put customers’ security in danger,” Mr. Ortega elaborated in testimony after shutting down the road. After greater than a 12 months of repairs, the town reopened it in 2015. However issues persevered, with issues intensifying after a horrific earthquake in 2017.

Some feared the issues had been by no means resolved, hidden too deep inside the construction.

“This line was born with most cancers,” mentioned Jorge Gaviño, the metro director in the course of the earthquake in 2017. “The definition of hidden defects is you could’t see them — on the floor, the whole lot seems to be good, however there are issues beneath.”

In a press release to The Occasions, Mr. Ebrard mentioned that “the problems noticed” throughout development of the metro line didn’t have an effect on its operation. He prompt the reason for the crash could have been tied to upkeep, saying it was not possible to know whether or not his successor “performed the entire upkeep work required within the occasion of earthquakes of a sure magnitude.”

“Line 12, which for years has benefited hundreds of thousands of individuals, is maybe essentially the most audited public work within the historical past of Mexico,” Mr. Ebrard mentioned.

However proof from the crash website signifies that the metro’s flaws ran a lot deeper than upkeep.

Beneath the tracks, the road that carried greater than 1 / 4 of one million folks across the Mexican capital daily was held collectively by bolt-like studs. Welded into metal and encased in concrete, they created a construction a lot stronger than both materials by itself.

The power of the overpass trusted these studs — they had been a vital connection holding it intact.

However pictures of the rubble level to a elementary lapse throughout development: The welds holding the whole lot collectively had been far too weak. Pictures present that the studs broke clear off the metal beams, creating what engineers known as an unstable construction incapable of supporting the practice.


Proof within the Rubble

The crash website gives clues in regards to the collapse and means that studs had been poorly put in.





Metal beams buckled inward

Preliminary proof suggests the brace holding the beams aside buckled.

The studs made a clear break the place they had been welded into the metal.

Metal beams buckled inward

Preliminary proof suggests the brace holding the beams aside buckled.

The studs made a clear break the place they had been welded into the metal.

Metal beams buckled inward

Preliminary proof suggests the brace holding the beams aside buckled.

The studs made a clear break the place they had been welded into the metal.


{Photograph} by Alejandro Cegarra for The New York Occasions

“An excellent high quality weld wouldn’t have failed like that,” mentioned Gary J. Klein, a member of the Nationwide Academy of Engineering and an government at Wiss, Janney, Elstner, a agency that research construction-related failures.

The studs had been dealt with shoddily, with little consideration to element, engineers reviewing the images mentioned. One apparent mistake: Employees by no means eliminated lots of the ceramic rings used across the studs throughout set up. A lot of these rings might be seen embedded within the concrete slabs that collapsed that evening.

Past that, the position of the studs was so irregular that it regarded extra like a crew’s improvisation than a strict adherence to a development plan, in response to the engineers who reviewed the pictures.

When the metro took its final journey, the whole overpass grew to become fatally compromised.

“When the studs failed, the concrete and the metal didn’t work collectively anymore,” mentioned Donald O. Dusenberry, a consulting engineer who has investigated many bridge collapses. “The metal grew to become overwhelmed.”

The Second of the Collapse

Supply: Related Press. Observe: Sections of the video are proven at decreased velocity.

After an earthquake devastated the capital in 2017, the town did its personal inspection and located different development flaws within the portion constructed by Mr. Slim’s firm. An inside authorities doc from 2017 reviewed by The Occasions famous that elements of the overpass had “structural faults,” had been lacking metal elements, and that a few of the concrete was badly poured, an error that prompt “carelessness.”

Mr. Gómez García, the chief government of Group Carso, Mr. Slim’s sprawling empire, acknowledged in an interview that leaving the ceramic rings across the studs was not preferrred, however mentioned it had not affected the construction.

“There’s one thing known as hidden flaws, in the long run these are issues that may occur,” Mr. Gómez García mentioned. “Sadly, there they’re within the pictures. They didn’t take away them.”



Inspecting the location of the collapse on Might 10.Alejandro Cegarra for The New York Occasions

Mr. Gómez García mentioned he believed the studs sheared off solely after the overpass crashed to the bottom and “weren’t the reason for the accident.” He added that upkeep might be responsible, because the tools and supplies used to restore the road after it was shut down in 2014 had been heavy, probably placing an excessive amount of stress on the overpass.

However a number of unbiased consultants rejected that rationalization, noting that the photographic proof factors on to the weak welds because the probably reason behind the accident.

Whatever the official investigations decide, the crash may carry immense penalties, not only for Mr. Ebrard and Mr. Slim (who was beforehand a big shareholder of The New York Occasions Firm). If upkeep performed a job, voters might also blame the president’s protégé, Claudia Sheinbaum, who has overseen the metro as Mexico Metropolis’s mayor for the final two years.



Claudia Sheinbaum, the mayor of Mexico Metropolis, final 12 months.Meghan Dhaliwal for The New York Occasions

As two of essentially the most dominant figures within the governing get together, Ms. Sheinbaum and Mr. Ebrard are extensively anticipated to vie for Mr. López Obrador’s blessing to succeed him and run for president within the 2024 elections.

With the general public outcry over the crash, Ms. Sheinbaum’s administration supplied about $32,000 to every of the households that misplaced a cherished one. However some have refused the cash and are suing the Mexico Metropolis metro system as an alternative.

“The road wasn’t made proper,” mentioned Bernarda Salgado López, the mom of Tania, who continues to be within the hospital, and Nancy, who died. Ms. Salgado has joined the lawsuit.

“I believe they need to be held answerable for what occurred, for the whole lot, for everybody who died,” she mentioned.



Bernarda Salgado López and Humberto Lezama, the dad and mom of Tania, who continues to be within the hospital, and Nancy, who died.Alejandro Cegarra for The New York Occasions

From the start, it was clear that the federal government needed to maintain prices low on the metro and transfer as rapidly as potential.

Initially, the concept was to construct a completely underground line, but it surely quickly grew to become evident that may be too pricey and take too lengthy. Town lower the finances for the metro line nearly instantly.

A consulting agency employed by the metro system listed the professionals and cons of an elevated line. It will be cheaper and quicker, however much less protected. Town in the end modified course and determined to go along with {a partially} elevated line.

To win the contract in 2008, Mr. Slim’s firm, Carso Infrastructure and Development, joined two established companies — one in all Mexico’s largest development corporations, ICA, and Alstom of France. Carso had no expertise constructing practice traces, but it surely did have two enticing qualities: liquidity within the midst of the worldwide monetary disaster and entry to a metal enterprise owned by Mr. Slim.

“It wasn’t simply the cash, it was the metal,” Mr. Gómez García mentioned.

After development started, federal auditors found critical flaws. In a 2009 report, they documented “badly executed work” carried out “with out quality control,” amongst different points, noting that “there was insufficient communication” between the teams supervising the undertaking and the development corporations. Mr. Ebrard advised The Occasions that “all observations” from the federal auditors “had been resolved.”

Town put strain on contractors to finish the job as rapidly as potential. The businesses confronted a high quality of about $120 million if they didn’t end nicely earlier than Mr. Ebrard’s time period ended, in response to Enrique Horcasitas, the undertaking director. Development started even earlier than a grasp plan had been accomplished.

Mr. Ebrard famous that utilizing “as constructed” plans, through which corporations draw up blueprints as they construct, was frequent and “allowed for technical flexibility” with out “compromising the integrity or security of the undertaking.”

However lots of the engineers who labored on Line 12 and spoke with The Occasions mentioned that many of the large-scale tasks that they had labored on, whether or not in Mexico or overseas, relied on grasp plans from the beginning.

“It wasn’t constructed with a grasp plan,” mentioned Mario Alberto Ruiz, who labored as an engineer for ICA constructing the road, “and that was additionally the supply of many failures.”

“We needed to construct as quickly as potential above all, as a result of, as you nicely know, there was going to be a change of presidency,” he mentioned.

The issue that drew essentially the most public consideration was the acquisition of trains, which didn’t match tightly sufficient on the tracks.

The mismatch stemmed from one other timesaving determination. The rails had been designed for American requirements, in response to testimony within the 2014 investigation by the town legislature. However the authorities ended up selecting a Spanish provider, CAF, that supplied trains designed for European specs. The explanation: CAF had promised to ship the trains a few 12 months forward of its competitor, Canada-based Bombardier.

“Bombardier gave us an extended timeline,” mentioned Francisco Bojorquez, metro director on the time, in 2014 testimony. “It was a query of time and of alternative.”

The incompatibility brought on a lot put on that the town needed to exchange a half mile of rail weeks earlier than the metro even began carrying passengers.

Because the inauguration in 2012 drew close to, engineers and their colleagues labored via the evening, scrambling to get the road in presentable form.

“There was plenty of strain,” mentioned Marcos Tapia Manjarrez, who additionally labored for ICA on the road. “We labored in shifts — I’m speaking about nearly 18 hours straight.”

The stress rose when Mr. Ebrard made visits to evaluate how a lot headway had been made, engineers mentioned.

“They might say, ‘the mayor is coming’ and clearly that put time strain on us, as a result of we hadn’t made sufficient progress,” Mr. Ruiz mentioned.

Mr. Ruiz recounted putting in provisional lighting, simply so there can be some method to mild up the stations for the ribbon chopping ceremony. The lighting was only for present — they disconnected it proper after.

Town obtained the road’s security certification lower than an hour earlier than Mr. Ebrard lower the ribbon, in response to the ultimate report by the Legislative Meeting in 2014.

“At the moment we’ve the dignity of giving this public work to the folks of Mexico Metropolis,” Mr. Ebrard mentioned on the ceremony. “A public work that’s full, completed, with essentially the most superior know-how on the planet.”

A little bit over a 12 months later, the road was partially shut down.

The metro director on the time, Mr. Ortega, mentioned in the course of the 2014 investigation that after only a 12 months in service, elements of the metro line confirmed indicators of wear and tear that needs to be anticipated after a decade of use.

The identical firm that licensed the road performed an inspection a 12 months after and located greater than a dozen issues, together with “irregular warping” of tracks and poor welding.

“In an accident,” Mr. Ortega mentioned, “not solely would the practice run off the observe, however we’d most likely have an infinite tragedy.”

On the evening of the crash, as Tania and her sister returned from procuring, the practice was full of passengers. Tania mentioned she struggled to carry onto a pole because the practice screeched throughout the observe earlier than plunging onto the highway beneath.

Tania struggled to search out her sister as injured passengers cried out for assist. Solely on the hospital did she be taught of her sister’s demise.

“I assumed it was my fault,” she mentioned, solemnly. “I had made us go search for my gown.”

As information of the collapse unfold, a gaggle of engineers engaged on Tren Maya, the brand new 950-mile railway being championed by the president — a major stretch of which is being constructed by Mr. Slim’s firm — took to a WhatsApp group chat. For months, the engineers had been buying and selling issues and frustrations, complaining a few disorganized and rushed development course of.

Mr. López Obrador inaugurated the development final June, and the federal government tourism arm overseeing Tren Maya mentioned in a press release that the undertaking is being constructed with the “highest high quality and security requirements,” though it acknowledged it was nonetheless making modifications to the grasp plan.

“The Tren Maya undertaking is a marketing campaign promise of the present administration and we’ve the dedication to complete it earlier than the top” of Mr. López Obrador’s time period as president, the company mentioned.

In a whole bunch of messages considered by The Occasions, engineers have mentioned development progressing on Tren Maya with out plans or particulars being accepted, in addition to unfinished designs.

And on Might 4, their consideration turned to the crash on Line 12, which a few of them had helped construct. The engineers traded totally different theories about what had occurred, however many appeared to agree on one level: The road by no means felt proper.

“What a tragedy!” one engineer mentioned, “forewarned is forearmed …”



Wilted floral tributes on the entrance of the Olivos metro station close to the place the overpass collapsed.Alejandro Cegarra for The New York Occasions

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