Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fourth of July IN a Metro Car

This sounds very scary. Reader Mia provides an inside account of a Metro train hitting a "communication" wire:

I am one of the unfortunate non-Federal workers who had to come in to work Feb. 9. I knew it would be a crapshoot as the trains are only running every 20 minutes. Fine. I can deal with that.

I boarded at Potomac Avenue to begin my journey to Dupont Circle. I sat down at my usual spot--second car, on the right side of the middle of the train, next to the window, and started reading my Express.

When we left L'Enfant, and as we started getting up to speed, there was a loud pop, the train shook violently, and sparks as big and bright as fireworks started spewing across the right side window. I gasped, the girl next to me stood up, and we all ran for the door that connected us to the car in front.

The train stopped.

The car began filling with smoke, with popping noises still going on, and sparks still flying outside the train.

People were crying, screaming. The people on the front car were trying to get into our car, and we were trying to get into their car. People were yelling, "fire, fire!!" Both of the front two cars were full of smoke, and no one knew what was going on- it was chaos.

We heard nothing over the intercom. Nothing. What were we supposed to do? Open the emergency doors and get out on the side of the track? Was the train on fire? Were the sparks from our train or from the track? Was the conductor unconscious? What was happening??

"Stand by, customers, stand by." That was it. That was all we got (two times) over almost 20 minutes.

At one point, the conductor (or someone in Metro gear) walked through the train and said, "we aight, we cool, we gonna be aight," and he walked through each car on the train.

Then we got another announcement, "Customers, we hit a wire, please stand by."

Okay- so after almost 30 minutes, smoke, sparks, hysteria, we find out what happened- we hit a wire. WHAT?? HOW??

Okay, so another man in Metro gear walks through, asks us to get our belongings together because they have an empty train at L'Enfant that is coming to evacuate us.

So the new train inches up to our train, and they open all the doors between all the train cars, and we evacuate out of our train into the new one. The new one backs up to the L'Enfant Station platform, and we offload at 9:01 a.m., after being told that "the train is out of service and trains are single-tracking around the disruption" so we'd have to get to the other side of the platform to get the next train.

My problems with this:
  1. sparks and smoke
  2. obviously unsafe tracks
  3. NO communication or information given to the passengers until 30 minutes of sitting in a smoke-filled car
  4. nothing like, "We're sorry," or any sign of condolence to the people who are obviously freaked out and crying

I just wanted to share this RIDICULOUS story with you, because I am now traumatized at being underground, trapped, for 40 minutes, with sparks and smoke, and no communication about what was going on.

Several people were saying this was the last straw, and one lady even said she'll never ride the trains again, she didn't care that she has to ride 3 buses to get to work, after this, she wanted nothing to do with Metro.

I plan on sending a complaint to Metro asap. Not that anything will be done about it.


keren said...

I was on this train on the second car as well. And this pretty much exactly what happened. We even tried the emergency call box at one point to check to see what was going on or even if the metro driver was ok. All we got was 'we will be moving soon'.

Anonymous said...

I was on the train too, I think the third car - I boarded at Stadium/Armory. I agree that the lack of communication was unbelievable! The folks in our car were very obviously scared, but everyone remained calm and tried to sit tight for instructions that didn't come until 40 minutes in. At a minimum when smoke is in the cars the conductor should agknowledge it and say something to keep riders calm. Scariest commute EVER.

Stan said...

I was in the 2nd car with the blogger. I saw sparks which is normal in the metro system. But after a few seconds the sparks got brighter which was followed by a loup pop. (almost like a transfer blew) Riders who were seated on the right side of the train jumped out of their seats because of the flash and noise. The odd part was that the popping and flashes didn't stop when the train stopped. People started to panic once they saw/smelled smoke and still heard popping noise after the trained stopped. I'm just glad know one got hurt.

Anonymous said...

metro sucks people that works for metro do not care about the people paying to ride all we hear metro saying we want more money

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many years it takes to develop cancer from breathing that smoke?

I'm being a jerk but really I do wonder how toxic all those terrible smells and smoke are that commuters are subjected to like experiemental rats by the killer WMATA.

Anonymous said...

Anyone contact NBC News, Wash Post, WTOP or Fox DC News? I bet they would love to hear about this one...

John Catoe said...

"we aight, we cool, we gonna be aight,"

Unsuck DC Metro said...

Hey Johnny, good to see you catchin' up on the blogs.

Bexwithanx said...

I was on the train too. Wanted to add something to this story. They actually said (as people were running into my car) "passengers please do not leave the train we will be moving momentarily" over the intercom then said "please stand by" twice. I remember it clearly...After that we were then stuck with no answers or communication from anywhere from 30-40 minutes.

The lack of communication that the conducter gave us was out of control, especially when people were freaking out. I could easily see a crowd of freaked out rushing people seriously injuring people in an incident like this.

Wmata needs to get it's stuff together. The guys around me were more communicative about what they would do to get us all out. Props to my two friends that I met on the train!

Anonymous said...

I also was on this train, and my experience was very similar to Bexwithanx. I think the thing that really suprised and worried me was how long it took for people to be able to open the emergency doors between trains. At one point there were people in the car closer to the 'event' who wanted to move into our car where there was less smoke. It took them several minutes of turning several handles to be able to open the door.

All I could think about was what would have happened if there was a crush of people behind the person opening the door. Scary thought!

Anonymous said...

The washingtonpost has this story in today's paper. it' a much lamer version and a day late. thanks old media. no wonder you're dyding a slow painful death

Anonymous said...

I was at the front of the second train, right by the window and yes, it was quite a light/smoke show. After the initial scare people filed out of the front car towards the back but yes, no real communications from the driver. I thought either it derailed on the third rail or a transformer blew, a 'communications wire' shouldn't have made that much of a mess.
People cooperated well to get on the 'rescue' train, helping out a mom with her 3 kids/stroller and stuff.

Once we got back to L'enfant I chose to walk home.

AlisonM said...

I was in the third car and I agree with all of the posts above. It was a very scary situation because there was no communication from Metro as to what had happened and what they were doing to get us out of the train. There were babies and elderly people on my car. People started rushing into our car yelling fire and we had no idea where to go or what to do as it was a very crowded car to begin with. We were UNDERGROUND in a smoke filled car with NO communication, or direction as to what to do and with a lot of panicked people. This could have been an even scarier situation if people had trampled our car in a panic. Luckily we all acted calmly and rationally. I am in no hurry to ride metro after spending 40 minutes trapped in a smoky car underground wondering if I would get out..or if anyone on Metro cared about the people panicking on that train...

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