Metro Smoke Investigation Focuses on Part of Railcar Touching Third Rail

What to Know

  • Investigators ruled out power cables as a contributing factor.
  • Someone pulled emergency door release, but train backed up to Tenleytown after all doors were confirmed shut.
  • No self-evacuations or injuries were reported.

A dislodged metal part of a Metro railcar apparently touched the third rail, causing the smoke that shut down part of Metro’s Red Line, according to the transit agency.

While Metro has not identified a root cause of the incident, investigators ruled out power cables as a contributing factor.

At 7:19 p.m. Saturday, the operator of the outbound train reported a loud boom and smoke entering the lead car of the train between the Tenleytown and Friendship Heights stations.

"I turned around to see flashing lights, flames, reflections off the tunnel walls and a loud noise and billowing smoke," said Chuck Holmes, who lives in Chevy Chase and was on the train. "That's when people really started to get nervous and started to move in and push down the car. People tried to jump over seats. People are really scared."

Passengers were moved to the trailing cars of the train, Metro said.

An unknown passenger pulled an emergency door release, but after all doors were confirmed closed, the train was reversed back to the Tenleytown station, where passengers got off the train, Metro said.


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For 20-30 minutes, riders didn't get any word from Metro about what was happening.

“Clearly for the people on the train it's very stressful,” General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld said. “I get it for sure.”

During some of these incidents, time is needed to figure out how to handle the situation, Metro said.

According to Metro, there were no self-evacuees and no injuries.

Red Line service was suspended between the the Van Ness and Medical Center stations for several hours.

For riders, the incident was too familiar to the fatal L'Enfant Plaza episode where smoke filled a train, resulting in a passenger’s death and hurting many others.

The Federal Transit Administration is investigating Saturday's incident. Last week, the FTA sent Metro a letter highlighting more than 220 defects found during an inspection.

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