One Dead, Dozens Hurt After Mysterious Smoke Fills D.C. Metro Car

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Photo: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

One person died and 83 other people were hospitalized after smoke filled a tunnel in the Washington, D.C., Metro on Monday afternoon — and to make matters even scarier, authorities still haven’t identified the source of the smoke. The Washington Post reports that a Yellow Line train came to a halt just after it left L’Enfant Plaza station, stopping about 150 feet into the tunnel. The train went dark and quickly began filling with smoke. People were told to sit on the floor to avoid the smoke, but many were choking and some passed out. “It started to get scary pretty quick,” said passenger Jonathan Rogers. “Smoke was coming in pretty steadily. Some people were fine, and some people were just hurting pretty quickly.”

The train operator told passengers he was trying to back the car into the station, but that didn’t work. After sitting in the dark and smoky cars for 30 to 40 minutes, at about 4:30 p.m. firefighters arrived and walked the passengers back to the station.

Eugene A. Jones, the interim chief of the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services, said firefighters had to make sure the electrified third rail was shut off before evacuating people via the tunnel, but the delay was not as long as passengers described. 

A Fire and EMS spokeswoman confirmed that one woman died, but would not give any details. Two other people remain in critical condition.

People described the smell as a chemical fire combined with burning wood. The National Transportation Safety Board, whose office is in L’Enfant Plaza, posted photos of investigators working in the tunnel, but they have yet to determine what caused the incident.