Timeline shows long wait for help on smoke-filled DC Metro train

A timeline released by the D.C. government Thursday details the events of Monday's Metro emergency, which left one person dead and more than 80 others injured. The details laid out by authorities raise some troubling questions.

It indicates the first call for help was made at 3:22 p.m., but it was another 22 minutes before power was cut to the third rail.

Through interviews with passengers Aldo Villalobos and Reggie Warner, who got on the Yellow Line train headed to Virginia at 3:15 p.m., we learned that within seconds of boarding, the train came to a halt with thick smoke filling the cars.

According to the timeline, heavy smoke was reported in the upper level of the station at 3:22 p.m., but it took six minutes for firefighters to be dispatched at 3:28 p.m. on what's called a Metro box alarm. They arrived three minutes later at 3:31 p.m.

By that time, the passengers had been sitting in the smoke-filled cars for about 15 minutes, listening to announcements from the driver, who asked that they remain calm as they were about to move back to the platform. They were also asked not to open the doors.

At 3:33 p.m. and again at 3:39 p.m., a caller told 911 the train was filling with smoke. At one point, based on a video posted on YouTube, the driver is heard asking transit police on board to contact transit officers L'Enfant Plaza for help, and ask them to move the train that was being held there.

But in order to do that, the third rail would still have to be energized. At 3:44 p.m., the battalion fire chief on the scene got confirmation from Metro that the power had been cut to the third rail. At 3:45 p.m., two separate callers got through to 911 asking if help was on the way. At 3:46 p.m., a second alarm was sounded.

Twenty-three minutes then went by before a battalion chief reported at 4:09 p.m. that a man was having a seizure on the train, and firefighters were performing CPR on a woman, whom we now know was Carol Glover—the only person who died in the incident.

According to the timeline, at 4:12 p.m. and 4:17 p.m., the first medic units arrived at the scene. The passengers said from the beginning they waited as long as 40 minutes for help to arrive, and the timeline appears to support that.

The key questions, based on the timeline and the videos from the train, are:

Why did it take six minutes for 911 to dispatch firefighters to the scene?

Did Metrorail wait too long to shut down the third rail in hopes of backing the train into the station?

Why if rescue squad one arrived at 3:31 p.m. did it take 13 minutes before the battalion fire chief confirmed the third rail was shut down?



Preliminary Readout of Emergency Calls and Dispatch Times for WMATA Incident

Following the incident at WMATA, Mayor Bowser has ordered a review of the response to the event, to be conducted in conjunction with the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) ongoing investigation into the causes of the smoke incident and prevention of any such events. On Tuesday, Mayor Bowser also designated me the District government's lead official to review the incident response and assist the NTSB in any way possible.

The Administration will continue to investigate many aspects of the incident, including, but not limited to response time and communications.  Below please find a preliminary timeline as to the early sequence of events, which, notably, involved not one but three metro stations.    

There were initially 13 emergency calls either to 911 or to the Office of Unified Communications supervisor. Fire and EMS units were dispatched to three different locations based on initial emergency calls.

3:14   Metro Rail's Unit 22 called to report a debris fire on the tracks at Gallery Place Station, upper and lower levels
3:19   Engine 02 Unit Dispatched to 7th St NW/H St NW (Gallery Place Metro)
3:18   A caller from a construction site reported smoke coming out of the Metro tunnel at 9th and Water St SW
3:22   Metro Rail's Unit 22 called to advise of heavy smoke at L'Enfant Plaza Metro upper level
3:22   Engine 02 Arrived at 7th St NW/H St NW (Gallery Place Metro)
3:24   Metro Transit Official called requesting medics and fire units at L'Enfant Plaza Station for smoke in the station and reported citizens in the station could barely breathe
3:25   FEMS units arrived at 9th St SW/Water St SW scene where there was an odor of smoke but no flames were seen
3:27   A caller at the entrance of L'Enfant station requested an ambulance
3:28   Metro box alarm was dispatched to 7th & D St SW; EMA is notified
3:31   Rescue 1 arrives (1st unit) at 7th and D St SW L'Enfant Station; MPD is dispatched
3:32   MPD unit 1D 1011 arrives 
3:32   A caller at the entrance of L'Enfant station requested an ambulance
3:33   A caller on the yellow line, in the tunnel stated the train was filled with smoke
3:33   A caller said he was "at or on" the Pentagon train and was transferred to Arlington 911 Center. The OUC call taker remained on the line and updated CAD which reflected this call
3:35   Engine 02 Unit cleared Gallery Place Metro and dispatched to L'Enfant Plaza
3:39   A caller on the train advised that it was filling with smoke.
3:42   A caller from a street location of 7th and E Street SW reported his wife was having difficulty breathing after she exited L'Enfant Station
3:42   Repeat caller from 3:33 – made inquiry "if help is on the way" the caller provided the train number 3031.  He was transferred to the Metro Transit Official who told him not to leave the train because the tracks were still live
3:43   A caller advised he was stuck on the train and it was filling with smoke
3:44   BFC advises that WMATA confirms that power is shut down; there is a train with people trapped
3:45   A male caller asked "if help is on the way because the train is filling with smoke"
3:45   A female caller asking if help is on the way because the train is filling with smoke
3:46   A second alarm dispatched
4:09   Battalion Chief 1 advises he is at Operations Command Center and there is a report of a patient having a seizure on the train; squad 1 advises 9th and D; and an adult female is undergoing CPR, requesting a medic
4:12   Medic 14 advises he is a block away from L'enfant plaza and will respond; Medic 6B responds that he is closer, medic 14 cancels the run
4:17   Medic 6B is given the corrected location on channel 0A12, 9th and D St SW
4:19   Command 2 directs all medical units on L'enfant Plaza to switch to 0A5 (tactical channel due to radio traffic)
4:25   Medic 27 transports patient to GW, CPR is still in progress

Additional information regarding the incident will be released in the coming days.

RELATED STORIES:

Photos taken on train show how long Metro passengers waited for rescue | http://www.myfoxdc.com/story/27853426/photos-train-metro-rescue

Document: Metro passengers told firefighters they were unable to open train car doors | http://www.myfoxdc.com/story/27852972/document-metro-passengers-told-firefighters-unable-to-open-train-car-doors

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