Why smoke-filled Metro train couldn't back out of tunnel

FOX 5 has learned that a plan to move the smoke-filled Yellow Line Metro train out of the tunnel near the L'Enfant Plaza station ultimately failed because the train that was in the station behind it had been abandoned. But where was the driver?

Videos recorded by passengers on that Yellow Line train filled in some of the gaps of just what happened in the minutes after the smoke filled the tunnel and the train, and Metro's plan to handle the emergency. We now know the driver of that train was put under orders to put it in reverse, but that didn't happen.

- Plan to have driver of smoke-filled Metro train back out of tunnel failed

- Driver of second train inside L'Enfant Plaza station had abandoned train, so there was no one to drive it

- Two Metro Transit Police officers happened to have gotten on the train that was in tunnel

- Driver of train in tunnel heard telling those officers to contact other officers in L'Enfant Plaza to move second train from platform

Based on information released by the NTSB Friday afternoon, the first train-- which filled with smoke in the tunnel-- left the L'Enfant Plaza station around 3:15 p.m. and got about 386 feet inside the tunnel before it stopped.

Ten minutes later, a train that left the Archives station came into the L'Enfant Plaza station, and that became a problem for the train in the tunnel. Three sources confirm to FOX 5 that the driver of the second train which was inside the L'Enfant Plaza station abandoned the train, but it's not clear why.

As smoke filled the train inside the tunnel near L'Enfant Plaza, the driver told passengers over the intercom that he saw no fire, and was going to put the train into reverse.

"Again customers, please remain calm, we are going to move back to the platform, please remain calm, we are about to move back to the platform. I understand there is smoke on the train, please do not open the doors. We are about to move back to the platform," the driver is heard saying over the intercom on video recorded by passengers.

But the second train had pulled into the station, and it was blocking his path.

"Once again customers, we have transit officials on L'Enfant Plaza trying to clear the platform so we can get the train back to the platform," he is heard saying on the speaker.

But the train in the station didn't move. The driver of the train in the tunnel is then heard trying to get the attention of the two Metro transit officers who were already on the smoke-filled train.

"Attention transit officers on the train, attention transit officers on the train: Please be advised you need to contact your transit officers in L'Enfant Plaza. They are holding the train on L'Enfant Plaza. You have to get in contact with them to move that train off the platform so I can get this train on the platform. That's what central is telling me."

But three sources familiar with the investigation tell FOX 5 the driver of that train had left the station, and there was no one else to drive it. It's not clear why the driver left the train in the station.

FOX 5 has also learned that at least three passengers left the train on their own, opening an emergency door, according to the Washington Post, and using cell phone flashlights to find their way to down the catwalk and out of the tunnel.

According to the timeline released by the District of Columbia, it took firefighters 13 minutes to get into the tunnel after arriving on the scene. That delay was, in part, due to concern over the third rail and whether the power to it had been shut down.

One woman was killed and more than 80 others were injured during the emergency.

In addition to learning that there were Metro Transit Police officers on the smokey train, FOX 5 has learned they were hospitalized after the incident. In fact, more than 10 Metro Transit Police officers received some kind of medical care as a result of the smoke they inhaled in the station.
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