Important News and updates

Metro Delayed Notifying First Responders of Severity of Events on January 12

@LesleyLopez via twitter

The preliminary reports from the National Transportation Safety Board and the District’s initial timeline of events show that there were many problems with the handling of the incident that occurred on January 12, 2015. Unfortunately, this proved tragic for riders in the smoke filled Metro train which. The timeline of events are as follows:

3:14 p.m. Metrorail Unit 22 called to report debris on fire on the tracks on the upper and lower levels at the Gallery Place station. The Office of Unified Communications then dispatched Engine 2 at 3:19 p.m. It arrived on the scene at 3:22 p.m. It found no evidence of a fire.

3:15 p.m. A southbound yellow line train with over 200 passengers stops as it leaves L’Enfant plaza. It stops about 850 feet into the tunnel.

3:16 p.m. Fans near the L’Enfant tunnel were activated by Metro’s Control Center, but it is unclear whether or not the fans were operating properly. Fans can push air in different directions and can be operated remotely by the Control Center. According to a Metro official, maintenance records for the fans are not current.

3:18 p.m. 911 receives a call that smoke is coming out of the Metro ventilation shaft at 9th and Water Street, SW. Fire and EMS units arrive 4 minutes later and smell smoke but no fire. About 8 minutes later the units report two individuals at the bottom of the shaft who self- evacuated. The units help in aiding the individuals.

3:22 p.m. Metrorail Unit 22 reports to the Office of Unified Communication that there is heavy smoke in the upper level of the L’Enfant Plaza station.

3:24 p.m. A Metro Transit Official requested medics and fire units at L’Enfant Plaza. There were reports of smoke in the station and people in the station could not breathe. 3 minutes later a 911 caller at the entrance of the station requests an ambulance and reports heavy smoke.

3:27 p.m. Metro station box alarm is dispatched to L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station. Emergency Management Agency is notified.

3:31 p.m. The first Firefighters (five of them) arrived at L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station. When they arrived, they were told by Metro Transit Police that there were passengers stranded on the train. Metro had not mentioned train passengers being stuck in the tunnel prior to this. They entered the tunnel there were problems with their radios and could not clearly communicate with commanders outside to ask for backup.  The signal boosting equipment was not working properly so cellphones had to be used to communicate. While one of the Metro Transit officers was on a cell phone with Metro Command, one of the Firefighters asked that the officer relay to Metro command to shut off the power. He was told by the officer that the power had been cut.  Four of the Firefighters then proceeded down the smoke filled tunnel. One stayed behind to try to communicate with command above. They had to manually trigger switches along the tunnel walls to cut off power to the third rail 800 feet in either direction. They got to the train but could not open the emergency doors (the door had no latch to pull), so they had to open a passenger door to begin getting passengers out. The issue with the emergency doors was flagged by the NTSB as a concern after the 2009 Metro crash. The doors should have been fixed by last April.

3:33 p.m. Emergency officials first become aware that there are passengers being trapped on the smoke filled train.

3:44 p.m. Battalion Fire Chief received confirmation from WMATA that the power in the area was disabled. Then preliminary NTSB report states it took officials 45 minutes to turn off power.

What is troubling about these findings is the amount of time that passed before Metro alerted first responders to the fact that there was a train with passengers stranded in the tunnel. Some reports state is took 20 minutes.  Once first responders arrived at L’Enfant Plaza station, their radios did not work and they could not get in contact with command above the station to ask for backup.  Even more disturbing is that on January 8, 2015, four days prior to this incident, fire officials had alerted the transit agency to the problem.

According to Metro records, there were 171 smoke and fire incidents on Metro property during 2013 and for the first eight months of 2014.  The organization that monitors safety on Metro, The Tri-State Oversight Committee, expressed concern about the number of incidents last year as asked Metro if this was “indicative of a more serious problem”.

Over eighty passengers that were in the train were taken to the hospital and one died. The question remains if some of these injuries, and possibly a death, could have been avoided had Metro communicated better.

If you or a loved one were injured in this incident and have any questions or wish to discuss your case, contact Michael Feldman in our Gaithersburg office at (301) 670-7030 or Matt Darby in our Lutherville office at (410) 769-5400. Mike Feldman was one of the lead attorneys in the June 2009 Metro subway crash that resulted in 9 fatalities. Mr. Darby’s knowledge of the rail industry was instrumental developing a case against Metro. There is no fee or obligation for this initial consultation.

Another Tragedy on METRO: Incident at L'Enfant Plaza

The firm of Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby LLP would like to offer its condolences to those individuals and families touched by the latest tragic incident involving METRO.  On Monday, January 12, 2015, at 3:30 p.m., a Virginia-bound yellow line train stopped in the tunnel just after leaving L’Enfant Plaza as the result of an electrical arc from the energized third-rail of the track.  Tragically, one person was killed as smoke filled the car.  Many others were injured.  Reports suggest that fires and smoke occur on a regular basis in the METRO system.

Firm partner Michael Feldman, a veteran of significant litigation against METRO, is concerned that this episode is yet another example of METRO’s deficient safety culture.  Mike was one of the lead attorneys for the Plaintiffs in the most recent METRO incident in which one train rear-ended another in 2009; an accident that took the lives of 9 persons and injured countless others.  Mike, who battled METRO’s efforts to limit compensation to the Plaintiffs, helped prove that METRO failed to take the necessary steps to protect the safety of the public in that case.  While battling many legal and factual arguments made by METRO, Mike was able help lead the team of lawyers to a resolution of those cases.  Mike was assisted by firm partner Matt Darby, who concentrates his practice in railroad litigation.  Matt’s knowledge of the rail industry and familiarity with experts in the area of rail safety was instrumental in developing the case against METRO.

Our firm is in a unique position to handle and litigate cases involving the METRO incident at L’ Enfant Plaza on January 12, 2015.   Together, Michael Feldman and Matt Darby provide a team with the type of experience necessary to assist the victims of this latest incident involving METRO. If you or a loved one were injured in this incident and would like to know your legal rights, please call Mr. Darby or Mr. Feldman with any questions you may have.  There is no fee or obligation for this initial consultation.  If you wish to speak to either of them please contact them by calling Mr. Feldman at our Gaithersburg office (301-670-7030) or Mr. Darby at our Lutherville office (410-769-5400).

BSGFD attended the 2014 CWA District 2-13 Conference and MSEA Conference! 

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Matt Darby wins big for Fire Fighters and Government Employees

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Ari Laric, Ernie Grecco (President of the Metropolitan Baltimore AFLCIO) and Matt Darby at the Conference. 

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Congratulations to Ken Berman for another victory on behalf of a Maryland Fire Fighter!

On January 27, 2014, the Court of Appeals unanimously found in favor of a Maryland fire fighter injured in a car accident whileon the way to his station to check the mail. 

To read more about the case click here.

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