One person has died and over 80 others were hospitalized in what has been called the worst DC metro calamity of the last six years.
It was a little after 3:00 p.m. on Monday, January 12, 2015, when DC metro commuters boarded a six-car train bound for Pentagon station. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary as the train pulled away from L’Enfant Plaza station, but for some reason, the train came to a stop less than a minute into the trip.
The lights inside the train cars went out, then dim emergency lights flickered on as the conductor’s voice sounded on the intercom saying there was a “temporary problem.” Smoke was accumulating in the train’s path. The conductor then told passengers that he was going to try and reverse the train back to L’Enfant Plaza station so they could evacuate.
Each time the train moved backwards, it would slowly proceed for a few seconds, then stop; lurch backward for a few feet, then stop again. A second train had entered the L’Enfant Plaza station, the conductor said, and he could not continue to back up the train.
By now, passengers were beginning to worry. Smoke continued to seep into the train and they were stuck hundreds of feet away from the L’Enfant Plaza station platform. Transit police officers aboard the smokey train took to their radios, attempting to communicate with command so they could begin an evacuation. All the while, passengers were instructed to stay in their seats.
As minutes passed, the train became smokier and smokier, making it harder and harder for people to breathe. People started passing around water bottles. One person even passed around a bottle of wine, all in an effort to comfort those who were struggling.
‘Should I get myself off this train?’
‘Is it safe to get off? Will I be electrocuted?’
These are just a couple of questions that were running though the minds of passengers as they continued to wait for someone, anyone, to evacuate them. Some didn’t wait for help to come, they just got off the train on their own. Most, however, did as they were instructed and remained in their seats.
Every person who inhaled smoke, or otherwise suffered injury, from the DC Metro smoke incident, has a claim. Call now for a free consultation at (855) 948-5098.
Roughly 10 or 15 minutes passed before worry turned to panic and fear. Passengers had to take turns lying on the floor so they could breathe fresh air, still no one taking charge of the situation. In one row you could hear cursing. In another, the sounds of people loudly praying. People texted their loved ones fearing they’d never see them again.
Malbert Rich was one of those who simply didn’t see how all the people on the train were going to evacuate safely. He texted his mother, told her he’d loved being her son. He also told his kids he’d loved being their dad.
But then help finally arrived. When passengers were being evacuated, many recalled a sense of calm and togetherness that filled the L’Enfant Plaza station. People helped their fellow passengers disembark. A handful of passengers helped lift a man in a wheelchair off the train. “It was sort of surreal,” Rich later said of the incident.
In the end, one woman was killed and over 80 people were taken to area hospitals. Most were treated and released but some remained hospitalized for days after the incident. So far, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has stated that an “electrical arcing event” caused smoke to build in the subway tunnel. At this time, the NTSB is still investigating what caused this arcing event.
DC Subway Emergency Response Timeline
3:18 p.m. Caller from a construction site reports smoke being emitted from metro tunnel.
3:19 p.m. Emergency response team dispatched to Gallery Place Station.
3:22 p.m. Metro Rail Unit 22 advised of heavy smoke emitted from the upper level of L’Enfant Plaza station.
3:22 p.m. Engine 02 arrives at Gallery Place Station.
3:24 p.m. Metro Transit officials call requesting emergency assistance at L’Enfant Plaza station for smoke in the station. People in the station ‘can barely breathe.’
3:25 p.m. Emergency teams arrive at intersection of 9th St SW and Water St SW. An odor of smoke, but no flames at scene.
3:27 p.m. Caller at L’Enfant Plaza Station requests ambulance.
3:31 p.m. Rescue 1 arrives (1st unit) at L’Enfant Station.
3:32 p.m. Caller at L’Enfant Plaza Station requests ambulance.
3:33 p.m. Caller on Yellow Line train states train is filled with smoke.
3:35 p.m. Engine 02 clears Gallery Place Station. Dispatched to L’Enfant Plaza.
3:39 p.m. Caller on train states train is filling with smoke.
3:42 p.m. Caller at intersection of 7th and E Street SW reports his wife having
difficulty breathing after she exiting L’Enfant Station.
3:42 p.m. Caller from train 3031 makes inquiry to see “if help is on the way.” The call is transferred to a Metro Transit official who says stay on the train because “tracks are still live.”
3:43 p.m. Caller says he is stuck on train filling with smoke.
3:44 p.m. WMATA confirms that power is shut down; states that there is a train with
people trapped on it.
3:45 p.m. Male caller asks if help is on the way because the train is filling with smoke.
3:45 p.m. Female caller asks if help is on the way because the train is filling with smoke.
3:46 p.m. Second alarm dispatched.
4:09 p.m. Report of a patient having a seizure on the train; adult female is undergoing CPR, medic requested.
4:12 p.m. Medic 14 advises he is a block away from L’ Enfant Plaza Station, will respond; Medic
6B states he is closer, Medic 14 cancels run.
4:17 p.m. Medic 6B receives corrected location on radio channel, heads to 9th and D St SW.
4:19 p.m. All medical units directed to L’Enfant Plaza Station, switch to radio channel 0A5 (tactical channel due to radio traffic).
4:25 p.m. Medic 27 takes patient to George Washington University Hospital, CPR still in progress.
L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station Incident Updates
January 16, 2015
NTSB Issues Report on Washington DC Subway Train Smoke Incident
The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report says that an electrical arcing event caused smoke to accumulate in a DC metro tunnel on Monday. The report goes on to say that the arcing third rail continued to receive power for more than a half hour after people at L’Enfant Plaza Station reported the smoke. A report on the city’s response to the emergency is expected in the coming days.
January 12, 2015
One Dead, Over 80 Injuries Reported in DC Metro Station Incident
A woman has died and over 80 other people were taken to area hospitals on Monday, January 12, 2015, after a busy Washington D.C. metro station filled with smoke. Many aboard the Virginia-bound train struggled to breathe, while some reportedly lost consciousness in the chaos.
DC Metro Accident Lawyer
If you or a loved one were one of the many passengers forced to endure the WMATA smoke train incident, contact the personal injury attorneys at Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman. Victims of this incident are sure to have countless questions that are best answered by a DC personal injury lawyer. Get in touch with us today for a free case evaluation.