D.C. Metro Faces Lawsuit Over Passenger Smoke Inhalation Injury

The first injury lawsuits are expected to be filed today following problems this week on the D.C. Metro, where a subway train near L’ Enfant Plaza station filled with smoke, sending more than 80 people to local hospitals and causing at least one death.

A Virginia man is expected to file a smoke inhalation lawsuit today in the District of Columbia Superior Court against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), according to a report by the Washington Post.

Fifty-three year old Malbert Rich, who commutes between Virginia and New York, was one of hundreds of passengers trapped on a D.C. Metro train on Monday, as it filled with thick, black smoke.

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The D.C. Metro accident appears to have been caused by water that got onto the electrified third rail of the track, resulting in electrical arcing that produced smoke that filled the train. Passengers say they were trapped for 35-45 minutes as they waited for a rescue. One person, Carol Glover, 61, died, and at least 84 people were hospitalized.

Passengers reported that thick smoke began to fill the subway cars, causing passengers to choke and worry for their lives. Passengers claimed the smoke started filling the cars quickly and witnesses say it became so thick it was difficult to see other passengers and people were losing consciousness.

Additional reports indicate that the train operator attempted to move the subway cars backwards, but the smoke continued to enter the cars. The train operator reportedly ordered the passengers to get low to the ground to avoid being affected by the smoke.

Rich was hospitalized after the incident with smoke inhalation injuries. According to a statements made at a news conference this week, Rich indicates that he and other passengers began to expect to die when rescuers did not get to them quickly, and he texted his family to tell them goodbye, anticipating he would succumb to smoke inhalation.

The lawsuit is intended to, in part, force WMATA to inform the public about what happened and what it knows about the incident. The authority has been criticized for being tight-lipped and secretive about the accident.

While the cause of the accident remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a number of officials have called for an investigation into the actions of first responders. Reports indicate that fire fighters had to wait until power was turned off on the rail to be able to remove people from the train, and there have also been reports that their radios did not work when they entered the subway tunnels, hampering communications.

As more information is discovered about this incident, it is expected that additional smoke inhalation injury lawsuits will be filed against D.C. Metro and other parties that may have been responsible for the problems or the inability to quickly rescue passengers trapped on the subway train.

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