One Dead, Dozens Injured After D.C. Metro Station Fills With Smoke

Choking smoke filled a Washington, D.C. metro station Monday evening, killing at least one woman and causing more than 80 others to be hospitalized. 

Hundreds of passengers were evacuated from D.C.’s L’Enfant Plaza metro station after a Virginia-bound Yellow Line train became engulfed in smoke from an apparent electrical arcing event.

More than 200 people were treated on-site, with 84 taken to area hospitals for moderate to severe smoke inhalation injuries.

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The incident occurred after a Yellow Line train came to an unexpected stop due to an electrical arcing event occurring about 1,100 feet in front of the train at L’Enfant Plaza station. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced it is investigating the incident.

The NTSB explained at a news conference late Monday evening that an “electrical arcing event” is when water hits an electrified third rail, or trackside power cables, which sometimes generates smoke. No fire was witnessed or reported on the scene and the train did not derail. Local officials reported there was roughly an inch of water on the ground next to the third rail were the smoke was generating from.

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 claimed 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.

While some passengers appeared to have gotten themselves off the train, others report being trapped for more than an hour.

D.C. Interim Fire Chief Eugene Jones reported to the Washington Post that firefighters were not ordered to immediately enter the train station to help riders because the first responders had to ensure the third rail power supply had been shut off to prevent further injury. Jones responded to the questions regarding the extended time frame it took for first responders to render aid claiming the delay was nothing like the length of time described by witnesses.

According to the WMATA , the smoke was thick enough to suspend service on Green and Yellow lines which both stop at the L’Enfant station. All Blue, Orange, and Silver lines will remain in service and are not impacted by the incident, said WMATA. The agency claimed Tuesday morning will offer challenges to commuters as all Yellow lines will be suspended and replaced with Blue line trains until the area is fully inspected and serviced.

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