EMS Responds to D.C. Rail Transit Collision



| Monday, June 22, 2009

Update:Metro transit officials are confirming an earlier report that nine people were killed in a train collision.

Metro spokeswoman Candace Smith says four bodies were recovered from the wreckage Monday after the rush-hour crash. Five more were removed Tuesday.

Smith says two men and seven women were killed, including the operator of the train that barreled into a stopped train. All the victims were adults.

Mayor Adrian Fenty said at an earlier news conference that seven people had died and he hoped the death toll would not increase.

The accident was the worst in the 33-year history of the Metrorail system.

Click here for an exclusive interview with DC Fire & EMS Medical Director James J. Augustine, MD.

Editor's Note: The Monday evening Metro train collision is a reminder that EMS should always be prepared for a mass-casualty incident (MCI). Read"Trauma at the Tunnel" to learn how Los Angeles-area crews handled a transit MCI.

WASHINGTON, DC (AP) - A rush-hour subway train plowed into the back of a stalled train in its path on Monday in the northern reaches of the U.S. capital, killing at least six people and injuring 70.


The female operator of the trailing train was among the six killed. The train in front of her was stopped on the tracks on one of the city's heavily travelled subway routes, apparently awaiting instructions to proceed. Rescue crews used heavy equipment to cut into the wreckage, with the first car of one six-car train wedged underneath the other after rear-ending it at high speed. There was a gaping hole in one train, with the orange seats from the subway scattered along the tracks.

The 5 p.m. EDT accident shattered the calm in a quiet residential neighbourhood near the D.C.-Maryland border where many backyards overlook the line.

"It happened so fast, I flew out of the seat and hit my head," said passenger Jodie Wickett.

"The people that were hurt, the ones that could speak, were calling back as we called out to them. Lots of people were upset and crying."

Mayor Adrian Fenty held a news conference at the scene.

"What we do know is that there are scores of people who have been injured. There are already four confirmed fatalities," he said.

"It is my present understanding that this would then be the deadliest accident in the history of our Metro train transit system."

Alan Etter, a spokesman for the Washington Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, said the incident was "developing into a mass casualty event."

In addition to the six dead, two more had life-threatening injuries and 12 had moderate injuries. Fifty were classified as being "walking wounded" by authorities.

There were unsubstantiated reports that some passengers were ejected from the trains at the point of impact.

The crash took place between the Fort Totten and Takoma Park stations on a Metro route known as "the red line" that shuttles tens of thousands of commuters every day between D.C.'s leafy Maryland suburbs and the city.

There is a long stretch of occasionally curving track between the two stations, meaning trains often reach higher speeds than they do between stations situated closer together. It appeared as though the trailing train was coming around a bend when the accident occurred.

Several people were taken by gurneys from the wreckage to nearby hospitals as dozens of ambulances transported passengers to nearby hospitals.

Some people remained trapped in the trains after the doors jammed on impact, and rescuers worked to free them hours after the accident _ and to search for bodies. Search-and-rescue dogs were also in the cars looking for victims.

Some passengers said they'd received alerts about delays on the line due to work being performed on the track prior to the crash.

"This an aging system and one that needs to be looked at very closely," said Peter Goelz, former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board.

The last major commuter crash in the United States was in September, when 25 people were killed when the conductor of a train in Los Angeles was sending text messages on his mobile phone while driving the train.

The deadly collision Friday in Chatsworth, north of Los Angeles, also injured 134 people and was the worst train accident in the United States in some 15 years.

JEMS Resources

"The train compacted accordion-style:" Comments from on-scene chiefs at the D.C. Metro crash

JEMS Connect discussion thread on this incident

JEMS.com MCI page

May 2009 JEMS "Trauma at the Tunnel" article

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Related Topics: Cardiac and Circulation, Extrication and Rescue, Head and Spinal Injuries, Medical Emergencies, Special Operations, WMD and Terrorism, Patient Management

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