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Practical World True News Magazine
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Practical World True News Magazine

Woman Dies After Smoke Fills Washington Metro Tunnel

Woman Dies After Smoke Fills Washington Metro Tunnel




WASHINGTON — One woman aboard a subway train died and 83 other people were taken to hospitals here Monday after a downtown Metrorail tunnel filled with smoke during the late afternoon rush, National Transportation Safety Board officials said. Two of the injured were reported to be in critical condition.

The Virginia-bound train had just left L’Enfant Plaza station on the system’s Yellow Line and was on its way to the Pentagon about 3:30 p.m. when smoke from an unknown source in the tunnel began filling the cars. Officials said the driver was unable to back the train into the station, trapping some passengers in the cars until firefighters arrived.

The N.T.S.B.’s initial finding was that the smoke had been caused by a high-voltage “arcing event,” when electricity jumps from the subway’s third rail in a pop or a flash, the agency’s investigator in charge, Michael Flanigon, said at a news conference late Monday.

Arcing events are not uncommon in subway systems, he said, and it was unclear why this one — which occurred about 1,100 feet ahead of the train — turned deadly. There was water in the tunnel, he said, and that could have been a cause of the problem.

The train, which had eight cars, stopped about 800 feet south of the station, and many of the passengers “self-evacuated” before firefighters arrived, Mr. Flanigon said. Some jumped out of the train cars, walked through the darkened tunnel to a vent shaft and climbed a three- or four-story-high staircase to get to ground level. In order for them to do so, the electricity for the third rail was turned off.

The train did not derail, and there was no fire onboard, Mr. Flanigon said.

Emergency crews helped the rest of the passengers leave the smoke-filled train, with riders walking through the tunnel leading back to the busy station, which serves as a transfer point for five of the system’s six lines. L’Enfant Plaza station was evacuated and closed for several hours, and some service on the Yellow and Green Lines was suspended through the end of the day.

Mayor Muriel Bowser met with some of the injured passengers at George Washington University Hospital on Monday night.

“We are all saddened by today’s fatality aboard the Metrorail, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the passenger who passed away,” the mayor said in a statement. “I want to thank our brave first responders who assisted passengers during the evacuation and with treatment at the scene.”

Officials at MedStar Washington Hospital Center said on Monday night that 11 patients had been treated there and released and that seven remained at the hospital, including one in critical condition and another in serious condition. One firefighter was injured, emergency officials said.

L’Enfant Plaza stop is near the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Communications Commission and several Smithsonian museums.

Mr. Flanigon said that investigators would remain at the scene for about a week and that it would take six months to a year for a final report, unless the safety board concludes immediate action is necessary.


The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority posted a message on its website to inform riders of planned changes to rail service for Tuesday.


There was still confusion at L’Enfant Plaza station around midnight as dozens of riders were forced to exit trains and had trouble finding the shuttle buses waiting for them on the street. One rider, Dashawn Grimes, said there was no announcement on her train saying there had been an accident. She wandered around looking for a shuttle bus before an employee sent her in the right direction. She boarded the last shuttle bus, which departed around 12:07 a.m.

“It’s cold out here and there’s no one here, and no one told me where the shuttle bus is,” she said. “It’s just really annoying.”
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