Mysterious Washington D.C Metro Smoke Incident: One Dead, 81 Injured

A fatal incident that occurred on January 12 on the Washington D.C Metro remains shrouded in mystery today. Metro General Manager Richard Sarles confirmed that a passenger died when thick smoke filled a train carriage within the tunnel system. L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station in Washington D.C was a scene of chaos and panic on Monday afternoon, as passengers were evacuated from the station and a Yellow Line train, just before rush hour. Though it was quickly confirmed by the fire department that no fire could be found at that time, the smoke was abundant, and continued to pour into the train carriage for some time.

Despite the fact that rush hour had not yet started, there were many witnesses at the busy station. Jonathan Rogers was on the Yellow Line train, which stopped short of Pentagon Station. He detailed the experience to The Washington Post.

“You could see smoke coming through the doors. It started to get scary pretty quick. People started praying. Smoke was coming in pretty steadily. Some people were fine and some were just hurting pretty quickly. The only scary part was not knowing if the smoke was going to stop.”

Mr. Rogers described how he and his fellow passengers came to the aid of a woman who struggled to breathe, and had passed out.

“We just kept doing (CPR), maybe 25 minutes… we just kept going. Somebody helped carry her toward the back of the train – that was before the fire-fighters arrived.”

According to witnesses, it was up to 40 minutes before the train was evacuated, and Mr. Rogers claimed the smoke had a “chemical smell” inside the train, but an aroma of “burning wood” once they were in the tunnel, walking out. Adjoa Adofo was also on the train, and explained that the passengers learned from the train operator that there was no fire, which initially helped to calm the crowds.

“But the smoke continued to come in. The driver told us not to open the doors. That was a big thing. More smoke would come in. But, people were panicking. They were trying the doors anyway. It was black. Pitch black.”

Ms. Adofo related that information from the operator indicated they were awaiting the removal of a train from the station before they could return, but communications were down. Roads around the station were closed during the incident, and officials confirmed that one woman had lost her life, two remained in critical condition and 81 received hospital treatment. The Guardian reports that emergency official Caroline Laurin gave confirmation of the involvement of the National Transportation Safety Board, who were quickly on the scene. As of the morning of January 13, Yellow Line services remained suspended, with replacement services running along other lines.

The incident, in the capital city, comes as governments around the world have urged extra vigilance to combat the heightened threat of terrorist activity, following attacks in Paris, France last week. Though this Metro incident has not been attributed to anything suspicious in nature, the loss of life means that the Metropolitan Police Department is involved in the investigation. The FBI also responded to the incident, following standard protocol. The spokesperson for the FBI’s Washington D.C Field Office, Andrew Ames, was quoted by The Washington Post as stating, “At this point, it doesn’t appear to be anything other than fire.”

[Image via Stripes.com]