Green Line Train Derails

Elton Hayes | 7/7/2012, 1:41 a.m.

Fifty-six Metrorail passengers escaped serious injury Friday afternoon after a train derailed during rush hour.

The Green Line train, headed toward the District of Columbia, derailed near the West Hyattsville station at 4:45 p.m., just before the train entered a tunnel. Three of the cars slipped off of the tracks, officials said.

One passenger, a pregnant woman, was transported to the hospital as a precaution. Three other family members accompanied her there.

Terrance Daye, a 29-year-old Greenbelt, Md., resident said he was leery about what had happened and didn't hesitate to pursue another option to get home.

"I usually take the Green Line train into Greenbelt," Daye said. "I'm stranded here because there's no service at Prince George's Plaza. Plus, with the derailment, I don't really feel comfortable getting back on the Green Line today. So, I just called [for] a ride.

Metro Media Relations Manager Caroline L. Lukas, said the track between Fort Totten and Prince George's Plaza is closed and would remain so while Metro investigators tried to determine the cause of the accident. While it was too early to tell, she said, heat may well have been a factor or the cause since hot weather can cause train tracks to swell or buckle.

Prince George's County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor said 95 firefighters on the scene - 24-25 of them in the tunnel and on the track - assisted the stranded passengers. He said it took about 45 minutes to one hour from the time the dispatcher received the call to the time it took to coordinate the evacuation and bring the passengers above ground.

Firefighters and Metro employees helped the passengers get out of the affected cars and led them to safety. They exited from the train tracks through an escape hatch at the intersection of Ager Road and 29th Avenue. Emergency personnel, police officers and Prince George's County officials set up a temporary station near the fan shaft, and several television trucks sat nearby in an area fenced off with yellow tape.

The fire chief said the passengers had to travel about 100 feet to get the fan shaft, and the distance from the derailment to the station was between 1,000 and 3,000 feet.

Emergency personnel set up a triage area for the evacuated passengers, Bashoor said, with the focus being on accessing injuries, treating them if necessary and ensuring that both passengers and emergency personnel stayed as cool and as hydrated as possible in the 100-degree heat and humidity. The passengers were taken by bus to the West Hyattsville Metro station.

"We dispatched additional units and had an air-conditioned bus and a [mobile] canteen with snacks. We operated in 15-minute shifts and rotated people in and out," Bashoor said.

Down the street, Metro and Prince George's County police cordoned off the train station and parking lot. A Metro Transit Mobile Command truck was parked in front of the station, while commuters clambered out of vehicles in the station's drop-off zone. A few solitary cars dotted the parking lot and police officers in twos and threes kept an eye on things.