Monday, January 13, 2014

Tragedy on Metro

I have to say this has never happened while I’ve been riding on Metro and I hope that it never happens again.

To set the stage I’m in the middle of the car in a seat very close to the door. Here’s the story.
It’s last Wednesday and I’m on way home from work on Metro.

In the tunnel between Judiciary Square and Union Station the train I’m on stops. It does the usual move forward and stop. The train was very crowded because it was rush hour.

 A Guy standing near the doors fell (I didn’t process that he had fallen to the floor). First thought I had was he had not hung on to anything when the train had lurched forward and stopped. Then I realized he had been hanging on. The next thought that came to mind was that he fainted. Then I realized it was much more serious than that. In the back of my mind I think I knew something really bad had happened to the guy.

People reacted quickly. Calls to give the guy some room so he can breath. People thinking he had fainted (like I did). Then people tried to get the attention of people at either end of the train (that’s where the intercoms, to contact the train operator, are in the cars at either end of them) to let the operator know that someone was down. Of course sense it was rush hour and the car was very crowded it took a little while to get people’s attention and get them to understand something was going on in the middle of the car.

People looked for a intercom where we were sitting. Someone reached to pull down the emergency door opening mechanism (thinking it was an intercom). I told them not to do that; that it wasn’t an intercom but the emergency release for the doors. I had to say that a couple of times. But that person finally stopped trying to pull that (I was concerned that if it was pulled and the doors were opened the car wouldn’t move into Union Station complicating the attempt to get help.) A woman near me got hysterical saying that why wasn’t there an intercom nearby. Eventually she calmed down.

Another woman said very loudly “we have a man down here. Let the driver know.”

More people said give the guy some room. People asked if anyone knew CPR. A couple people came forward to help out. A guy said he couldn’t feel a pulse. Renewed calls to let the train operator know what was going on.

We finally get into Union Station. Someone gets off the car and heads up toward the operator to let them know what was going on. A woman pulled out her cell phone and dialed 911. She said there was a man down and didn’t seem to be breathing. I believe she said he didn’t have a pulse too.She stayed on the phone and gave information on where we were. She stayed on the phone until someon from Metro showed up.

I was able to get a look at the guy. He was not moving and looked bad. I thought again this is not good at all.

Things now began to move quickly. Someone showed up from Metro. He seemed to have some medical knowledge and was carrying a pack of some kind. (I later found out that a defibrillator was used on the man). He radioed for additional help. He took over CPR. Then Metro employees were at the ends of the car telling everyone to get out. The rest of the train had been off loaded too. They then closed all the doors to all of the cars except the one where they were working on the guy.

They continued to work on him. Paramedics then arrived.

All trains were running on the opposite track. The platform got very crowded. The trains coming into the station were crowded too.

Metro did an excellent job in controlling the situation. They blocked off all platform access to the car where the man was being worked on. They had employees on the platform telling people trains were single tracking. Telling people which side of the platform trains were running on. They also kept people back from the barriers around the car where the paramedics were working. There were also announcements over the loud speaker system telling people what was going on. Also when a train pulled into the station, they announced what direction it was going in.

I waited around for a train since the first couple were so crowded. Then I decided I would wait a little while longer to see if they brought the guy out. I was hoping he might be conscious or at least responsive in some way. He was not. I thought well he probably is not going to make it.

I talked to a woman who’d been on the train. She say the guy being taken out by the paramedics (they was someone still doing CPR on him). We both thought it looked pretty bad. Finally a train came along that I could get on and I headed home. Not the evening commute you usually think of.

If there is any consolation from this, it is that people did not just stand around. People reacted immediately to get help for this guy. People stepped forward to help out. Once we got into Union Station and the doors had opened people went to get help. And Metro’s response was fantastic. It’s just too bad there wasn’t a happier ending.

I found out the next day that he died from a story in the Washington Post.

In all likelihood the guy was dead by the time he hit the floor. So I literally got to see a man drop dead. I hope I never have to see that again.


Ed Wood said...

Wow, what an awful experience. At least you got to see all the people who stepped up to help out.

Ann said...

Lived for 30 years in DC - most of the time, I think DC residents are pretty likely to take crises in stride and be caring towards each other. How old was the guy? Thanks for the reminders:
- people are nicer than you think
- life is too short

Jason in DC said...

The ending was tragic but it made me feel good that people responded instead of just standing around. I've been in a couple of situations (not as bad as this one) where people haven't done much.

Ann I found out from the article in the Post he was 67 on business from Arizona. They wouldn't release his name because next of kin hadn't been notified.