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Over 80 Hospitalized After DC Metro Station Fills With Smoke

By: Allan M. Siegel

Early Monday afternoon, January 12, 2015, dozens of people were hospitalized after a Metro train and L'Enfant Plaza station in the Southwest Federal Center filled with smoke. According to authorities, the smoke forced a shutdown of the station and resulted in the following:​

  • The death of one woman
  • Two people in critical condition as of Tuesday
  • 84 people being treated in area hospitals
  • Over 200 people evaluated
  • One firefighter injured

According to officials, emergency services were dispatched following reports that the Metro train and tunnel were becoming heavily filled with smoke. Before they arrived, however, passengers reported a harrowing and chaotic scene on the train, and several of the passengers had passed out. The majority of injuries resulted from smoke inhalation.

Because the incident resulted in a death, several agencies are now involved in the ongoing investigation, including the Metropolitan Police Department and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The NTSB released a statement that the smoke was caused by an "electrical arcing event" involving trackside power cables. There was reportedly no fire.

While the investigation into the January 12, 2015 incident at the L'Enfant Plaza Metro Station is just beginning, the NTSB's report that it was caused by electrical arcing seems to suggest that it was preventable. Arcing occurs when the electrical current escapes from a rail that carries power to move the train cars. Electricity can escape if the power cables have deteriorated or the insulators go bad. This appears again to be caused by a failure to properly maintain the train system that many in the DC Metro are rely on for safe transportation.

As the investigation continues, passengers are recounting their stories and recovering from the frantic event. According to some, the evacuation was poorly managed and some even questioned if there was an emergency plan. Safety officials will be evaluating the protocol. The event not only caused countless injuries and one death, but also will have emotional and psychological impact on all involved.

Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. extends our support and services to all victims and families affected by this incident. Having represented many victims harmed in incidents involving the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA or Metro) we understand the serious nature of these accidents and the tremendous emotional suffering they can cause. In fact, our lawyers have represented victims in almost every catastrophic train accident that has occurred in the Washington DC Metropolitan Area in the last 18 years.

Most recently we represented the family of a man who died in the June 22, 2009 Metro Red Line crash near the Fort Totten Metro station. That crash killed 9 people, and injured as many as 80 people. Our law firm served on the Steering Committee for the litigation that resulted from that tragic crash, and helped ensure that the Metro was held fully responsible for the actions that caused that crash. However, most disturbing is that the 2009 crash revealed that there were many deficiencies in the way that Metro maintained their trains and rails. This most recent incident appears to highlight those maintenance deficiencies again.

If you or someone you know was involved in the January 12, 2014 incident that occurred at the L'Enfant Plaza Metro Station, our legal team is available to provide a free and confidential case evaluation to help you learn more about the steps you can take. We serve clients throughout the DC Metro area from offices in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC.

Read more about our experience handling train accident cases.