Obstacle at L'Enfant halts Blue and Orange lines

Metro suspended service on the Blue and Orange lines between Metro Center and Federal Center SW for more than four hours Tuesday when a piece of the brake mechanism fell off a train causing track obstruction at L’Enfant Plaza.

"Boom. It almost sounded like an explosion," said passenger Josie Brown as she relived the incident that brought the trains to a standstill. "You felt the train lurch and you saw sparks and flames. Several women jumped out of the seat because they were on that side."

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said on Twitter that a part from a train caused the obstruction.

The incident started before 10 a.m.

About 300 passengers were trapped. According to Brown, the first time they heard from a Metro operator was an hour after the incident.

"They sinply said, 'Ha, we are experiencing difficulty. Thank you for riding Metro. We thank you for your patience.' At that point, the whole car just went up. They were livid," Brown said.

For some passengers, hysteria set in.

{ }

“I just threw up and everyone panicked, the train is on fire we got scared,” says Joanne Epps.

One woman who was one of the first to come out of the Smithsonian Station immediately hugged her husband when she got out of the station.

Here's a statement by Metro on the incident:

Blue/Orange Line service is temporarily suspended in both directions between Metro Center and Federal Center SW due to an earlier track obstruction near L'Enfant Plaza.

The preliminary investigation has found that the track obstruction was part of a rail car called a "friction ring" that became dislodged and fell to the track bed from a passing Orange Line train at approximately 9:40 a.m.

The friction ring made contact with the electrified third rail, resulting in a smoke condition until power was de-energized shortly after the incident occurred.

The friction ring is part the brake assembly and helps stop the train.

D.C. Fire and EMS confirmed that they removed about 300 riders off the stalled train.

Hundreds of riders had their travel plans disrupted because of the incident.

“You had a lady that had a panic attack, you had a lady who was a diabetic, a lot people began to pray and sing,” says Metro rider Justin Pearson.

“If something is breaking off I just don't think it's a good thing,” says Metro passenger Lynda Hiltz. “Remember that Red Line accident; what was it, two years ago?”

Metro announced at about 2:30 p.m. that normal Blue and Orange line train service resumed.

On June 22, 2009, two Red Line trains crashed near the Fort Totten station, killing nine people and injuring dozens.

In October 2010, a lurching escalator which sent passengers plunging to the bottom injuring several of them.

“I would question the safety of it,” says Metro rider Tony Varda. “If they are having that kind of maintenance problems with it.”

Tuesday night, Metro's own General Manager took the train home to reassure passengers that it's a safe way to travel.