1 dead, 84 others taken to hospitals after hundreds evacuated from L'Enfant Plaza Metro station and train due to heavy smoke

Passengers overcome by smoke on a Metro train at L'Enfant Plaza Metro station. (Photo: ABC News via @alitwin4/Twitter)

WASHINGTON (WJLA/NewsChannel 8) - One woman died, two passengers were in critical condition, a firefighter was seriously hurt and dozens more suffered lesser injuries after heavy smoke filled a Metro train and the tunnel at L'Enfant Plaza station, authorities said Monday evening.


Hundreds of people were evacuated about 3:30 p.m. as thick smoke filled the rail tunnel at one of the busiest Metro locations in the city. The source of the smoke remained unknown Monday night and the closed station was being ventilated. The National Transportation Safety Board said it was taking over the investigation into exactly what happened.

"We sprinted for our lives" as we left the station, one passenger told ABC 7 News, adding that the smoke was so thick it was hard for passengers to find their way out of the tunnel.

Those evacuated included people waiting for trains in the underground station and passengers on a disabled train about 150 feet south of L'Enfant Plaza, who had to be rescued by police and firefighters.

Emergency medical workers evaluated about 200 people following the evacuation at a makeshift triage center set up along the street above. Those needing further medial attention were taken by ambulances and buses to hospitals in what the local firefighter's union called a "mass casualty" event.

Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a statement, "We are all saddened by today's fatality aboard the Metrorail, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the passenger who passed away. I want to thank our brave first responders who assisted passengers during the evacuation and with treatment at the scene. I have been in contact with the WMATA leadership, and we will continue to keep the District's resources available in the aftermath of the incident."

The woman who died was reportedly unresponsive with no pulse after CPR was performed on her at the scene. Her identity was not immediately released.

Metro and D.C. Fire Dept. officials said the two critical patients were being cared for at George Washington University Hospital. In all, 84 people were taken to local hospitals - including a firefighter who suffered serious, but not life-threatening injuries. The majority of those being treated, roughly 60 people, suffered from smoke inhalation; 40 such cases were being handled at Howard University Hospital and 20 others at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

No trains stopped throughout the evening rush hour at L'Enfant Plaza, but it resumed service for the Orange, Silver and Blue lines shortly after 8 p.m.

Rail service was suspended through the end of the night on the Green and Yellow lines between Gallery Place and Navy Yard/Pentagon.