In a series of recent incidents, Washington Metrorail passengers have deliberately and dangerously walked along the rail tracks and narrowly escaped injuries or death.
In almost a dozen trespassing incidents, all of which occurred in the past six months, Metro patrons knowingly lowered themselves onto the track beds. In some cases, the people were trying to retrieve dropped items. In one instance, a young man and woman deliberately walk along the tracks to capture photos of the woman’s yoga routine.
Security videos and reports detailing these trespassing cases were obtained in a records request by the News4 I-Team. Several of them occurred during midday and afternoon hours, in which train traffic is regular and frequent. “They go down there for a variety of reasons,” Metro Transit Police Chief Ronald Pavlik said. “Some do it to retrieve personal property. Some do it as a game.”
One series of surveillance camera videos obtained by the I-Team show a woman lowering herself on to the tracks at the Reagan National Airport station about 11 a.m. Feb. 5. The videos show a wind gust lift and toss the woman’s FedEx envelope on to the tracks below. The videos show the woman lower herself down to the track bed, by using a set utility steps reserved for track maintenance employees. After retrieving the envelopes, the woman is seen struggling to climb back to the platform. The surveillance videos show a train approaching moments after she gets out of the way.
A separate set of videos show a man and woman deliberately walking along Orange Line tracks at the West Falls Church station shortly after 11 a.m. Dec. 12. The surveillance camera images show the woman striking yoga poses as the man appears to take photos of her.
In a Dec. 5 incident at the Gallery Place station, security camera video shows a man lower himself to the tracks in an apparent effort to climb across to the platform on the opposite side of the station. The man is seen struggling to maneuver past the lighted median between the tracks. He is also shown struggling to climb out of the track bed. Metro Transit Police officers helped lift the man to the platform. He was intoxicated and charged with unlawful entry, according to a Metro official.
Pavlik said escaping the tracks is often a challenge. “You have no foothold,” he said. “You have no stronghold. You’re using your entire upper body strength to pull yourself up on the platform.”
Trespassers risk making contact with the electrified third rail, Pavlik said. Good Samaritans who attempt to rescue stranded people are also in danger.
Jennifer Buchanan, a Pentagon employee who helped rescue a man who fell from a Yellow Line station platform last year, said she was in danger of falling on to the tracks while pulling the man to safety.
“I have two kids,” Buchanan said. “They could’ve been left without a mother. I’ve been taught you have to do the right thing, though.”
Buchanan and her father rescued the man moments before an oncoming train arrived at the station. They later learned the rescued man was not a trespasser but had slipped while using his phone near the platform’s edge.
The I-Team’s review found people deliberately trespassed on the tracks at the Landover station March 10, Eastern Market Jan. 4, Cheverly station Jan. 6 and Gallery Place March 15.