WASHINGTON (WJZ) — Startling revelations. A new report gives insight into communication problems when smoke filled a Metro train earlier this week. One person was killed and dozens of more became ill.
Mary Bubala has more on what went wrong.
The National Transportation Safety Board says the incident started around 3:06 p.m., when a circuit breaker broke on a section of electrified rail near the L’Enfant Metro station, sending smoke pouring into the tunnel. At 3:15, Metro stopped the train about 200 feet past the station.
But according to a report released Saturday by the DC mayor’s office, Metro employees first reported smoke at the L’Enfant Plaza station at 3:22 p.m., with no mention of passengers being trapped.
At 3:31 p.m., the emergency crews arrived. The radio system in the tunnels—specifically for these types of emergencies—was down, forcing rescue crews to use cell phones instead. Once they got to the lower level of the station, they finally learned passengers were stuck in the tunnel.
By 3:33, nearly 30 minutes after the smoke started, people on the train were calling 911. At 3:33, one man told the dispatcher the car was filling up with smoke said said, “It’s going to be a bad situation here very soon.”
Around 3:40 p.m., a rescue team finally reached the more than 200 passengers only to find the emergency exit at the back of the train wouldn’t open. Crews used a special key to enter the train through a passenger door.
Eventually all the passengers were evacuated down the track and back to the station.
One woman died; 84 were taken to area hospitals.
Four days before the incident, DC Emergency Services reported the radio system wasn’t working at that station. That could have contributed to some of the confusion.
The NTSB is continuing its investigation. That report could take up to a year.