WASHINGTON - Metro is facing new problems and new scrutiny following tense moments this weekend for riders on the Red Line. The incident took place in northwest D.C. between the Tenleytown and Friendship Heights Metro stations Saturday night.
After smoke was reported inside of a tunnel along the Red Line, the train was stopped and taken back the previous station. Passengers were then offloaded.
Riders are saying that what happened was not only scary because of the insulator fire, but also because of the response they were getting from employees. They say Metro employees were acting panicky and ignoring questions being asked from riders about what was going on.
A passenger named Chuck Holmes says he was on the first car of the evacuated train on Saturday. The operator of his train started yelling for people to move to the back of the train. Holmes says that he saw smoke and flames, but when riders tried to ask questions they were ignored.
“[Myself] and some other passenger directly asked him, 'What's going on?' and he wouldn't answer. He wouldn't even make eye-contact. He seemed very nervous," Holmes explained.
At a D.C. council hearing on Monday, Councilmember and WMATA board chairman Jack Evans questioned Metro’s response to the fire.
“Clearly from the people on the train it's very stressful. I get it for sure. But we have to get people into a safe area as quickly as possible. You can't just start making decisions if you don't know what you're making them on,” Metro general manager Paul Wiedefeld explained.
Metro says they have not yet identified the root cause of the incident, but investigators have eliminated power cables as a contributing factor.
"As a preliminary matter, the investigation is focusing on a foreign object, specifically a metal part of a railcar, becoming dislodged and making contact with the electrified third rail," Metro said in a news release. "The foreign contact is believed to have caused a loud noise, flash and smoke."
There were no injuries in the incident.
Red Line delays continued into Monday morning's commute.