DC releases initial report on deadly L'Enfant Metro incident

The District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency has released an initial report on the smoke incident at the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station.

One person died and 83 other people were hospitalized after being trapped on a train that was stopped in a smoke-filled tunnel about 386 feet from the end of the platform on January 12.

The report provides a timeline of key events of the incident and focuses on two preliminary areas of concern during the response: communication and response times/procedures. Also included in the report are the transcription of the 911 calls about the incident.

Click here to read the full initial report

The first calls came in at 3:14 p.m. that day. The last passenger was evacuated at 4:25 p.m. So it was about an hour and ten minutes that some passengers were stuck on a smoke-filled train.

Radio communication was sporadic, and because of that, communication between first responders was very difficult, according to the report from multiple D.C. agencies. In fact, it says responders resorted to using runners to tell emergency personnel what was going on.

Some doors to the trains were very difficult to open and when responders asked passengers to open a side door, they couldn't. Some rescue personnel had specialty keys and were eventually able to use them to open the doors.

There were two Metro trains in the incident: one stopped after filling with smoke between the L'Enfant Plaza station and the Potomac Bridge. That train was the one deep in the tunnel.

A second train also filled with smoke and stopped at the L'Enfant Plaza station. When rescuers arrived, the passengers and train operator had already evacuated.

So the focus was the remaining six-car Yellow Line Metro train.

At 3:40 p.m., nearly a half hour after the first calls for help, rescuers made it to the train in the tunnel. They found a woman unconscious, and when they finally got her out to the platform, the report says she was breathing.

But when they got her outside the station, she stopped breathing and they called for an ambulance.

The report doesn't name her, but 61-year-old Carol Glover died in this incident. She was a native Washingtonian and resident of Alexandria, Va. More than 600 people attended her memorial service this past Monday to celebrate her life.

The report also includes social media accounts as a way to verify and double check the timing.

One of the 911 calls came from a person at a construction site at 9th and Water streets who spotted smoke coming out of a Metro tunnel vent. The caller knew the Yellow Line ran below, but had some trouble being understood by the call taker.

He said Water Street, according to the transcript, but the 911 operator repeats back, "W-A-R-T-E-R?"
 
The calls also indicate how frightened many people were they were coughing and their lungs filled with smoke.

Also, there was confusion as calls were being transferred from D.C. to Arlington because some callers thought they were closer to the Pentagon.

The National Transportation Safety Board's report found evidence of severe electrical arcing. The report says an electrical breaker at one end of a section of third rail opened or tripped.

The D.C. government is working on a more comprehensive after action report and officials acknowledge the possibility of a larger and even more complicated incident.

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