At 3:06pm on January 12, smoke filled the Yellow Line at L’Enfant Plaza Metro due to an electrical malfunction, continuing for 44 minutes until the Metro Transit Agency managed to shut off the power. The toxic smoke caused the hospitalization of 83 passengers and the death of Carol Glover. Glover’s family, along with a few other affected passengers, have decided to sue Metro.
According to multiple sources, there were many avoidable factors that contributed to the magnitude of the situation, such as miscommunication, poor design of the ventilation system, and a malfunctioning smoke alarm. Many concerns have been raised as to the effectiveness of current Metro emergency protocols.
Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Metro officials conducted a brief meeting with 13 members of the U.S. Congress from around the D.C. area. In addition to the technical issues, lawmakers were briefed about the miscommunication involved and how Metro could ensure that a similar incident will never occur again. During the press conference, lawmakers were clearly frustrated by the broken radio communications.
“The unfortunate tragedy is that, 14 years after 9/11, we’re still not fully there,” said Senator Mark Warner at the press conference, “We’ve invested literally hundreds of millions of dollars in radio systems. If they don’t talk to each other in a crisis, they don’t do much good.”
Many people depend on public transportation to get around on a daily basis. However, the recent incident has left many Metro riders uncomfortable or afraid.
“I find it a disaster that the county wasn’t able to help the riders on the Metro,” Annie Luo, a freshman at Winston Churchill High School, noted disapprovingly. “They were stuck on the smoke-filled train for hours, unable to help themselves, expecting someone to get them out of there. People had to be transported in busses because there weren’t enough medical vehicles. The Metro is supposed to be prepared for emergencies like this, and the fact that they weren’t surprises me.”
On January 16, the NTSB released a report on the incident. The report included information such as employee safety experience, maintenance, and evacuation plans. The NTSB has also formed multiple technical investigative workgroups to further research the accident.
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Omisa Jinsi of Churchill High School