20 Injured after D.C. Metrorail Train Derails

A Metro Green Line train derailed yesterday afternoon near the Mount Vernon Square/7th Street-Convention Center station, injuring 20 passengers and prompting a massive emergency response, officials said.

The fifth car of a six-car, northbound train crossed a rail switch and left the tracks at about 3:45 p.m., spokeswoman Cathy Asato said.

The most seriously hurt was a male passenger who suffered a head injury that was not considered life-threatening. The other 19 injured had mostly "bumps and bruises," Mrs. Asato said.

The derailment sent at least one of the cars smashing into the tunnel wall, which sent broken glass, fiberglass, concrete chips and other debris flying inside the cars and into the dark tunnel, said Larry Schultz, acting operations chief for the D.C. Fire Department.

"It's not easy walking around down there," Chief Schultz said as a light rain fell and firefighters hurried into the dark tunnel from the station entrance at Seventh and M streets Northwest.

Metro officials say the derailment occurred as the train approached the station. Service was immediately stopped, and the station remained closed well into the night.

Most of the passengers in the front cars escaped onto the station platform without difficulty. But many in the rear cars, which were still in the tunnel and about 100 feet from the platform, needed assistance from firefighters equipped with flashlights. Some were evacuated in wheelchairs and stretchers, including a pregnant woman, who appeared to be OK.

Mrs. Asato said about 150 passengers were on the train. However, fire officials said a more accurate number would be difficult to get because many had left through the station exit before help arrived.

A spokeswoman for Washington Hospital Center said the hospital received seven injured passengers. She said five were treated and released, and two remained under assessment.

Chief Schultz said the fire department received the call within two minutes of the accident and that firefighters were inside the station within five minutes.

"It just stopped," said 15-year-old passenger Erica Harris. "We got out and walked to the station."

Chief Schultz said emergency crews were able to separate the first four cars from the wreckage and that the fourth and fifth cars were the most damaged.

Republished with permission of The Washington Times.