Heat caused rail to expand, led to Metro train derailment near West Hyattsville station, says WMATA -- Gazette.Net


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Related video link: A look inside the aftermath of the derailment and the evacuation of the passengers by Natalie McGill (YouTube)

This story was updated at 12:00 p.m. July 7, 2012.

A “heat kink” is to blame for the Friday afternoon derailment of a Green Line inbound train en route to West Hyattsville Metro, according to Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority officials.

Repairs are still in progress Saturday after the train derailed about 4:45 p.m. as a result of the “heat kink” where a section of the track expanded under high temperatures, according to a WMATA release. Temperatures reached as high as 98 degrees in Hyattsville, according to the National Weather Service website.

Metro Transit police and the Prince George’s County Fire Department officials helped evacuate 55 passengers, who were transferred to a bus with air conditioning. One pregnant woman was taken to the hospital to be checked out but was last reported in good condition according to the Prince George's County Fire/EMS department.

Buses replace trains between the Fort Totten and Prince George’s Plaza stations while repairs are made to the track and previously scheduled weekend track work has been suspended as a result, according to the WMATA website.

Brenda Armstead of Laurel was on her way to Fort Totten to transfer to the Red Line when the derailment occurred.

“The train went up and it shifted from side to side violently,” Armstead said. “Thank God it didn’t go over that bridge.”

After the derailment the train came to a stop inside a Metro tunnel and passengers like Carlos Navas, who was on his way to Chinatown in Washington, D.C., noticed dust seeping in through rail car doors.

“I started getting scared,” Navas said.

A Metrorail operator assured passengers it was dust, not smoke, and asked passengers in the rear of the train to move to the two front cars. He notified passengers that the electricity needed to be shut off in order for Prince George’s County fire/EMS officials to enter the tunnel and plan an escape route.

Passenger Jason May, his wife Brandy May and 1-year-old son Chance of Charlottesville, Va. said they were in town for a wedding this weekend.

“My first thought was that we hit something,” Jason May said. “I’m sure it felt worse from up there [referencing the back of the train].”

The trio were on their way to visit the National Mall in Washington, D.C. before the derailment. Brandy May said it was “an adventure for the little guy” as she held Chance.

“I think we’re going to call it a day,” Brandy May said.

About 5:30 p.m. a Metrorail car exit door was slid open and Prince George’s County firefighters held each passenger’s hand as men, women and children jumped out of the rail car. The passengers then walked through the tunnel illuminated by glow sticks on the ground and the flashlights of firefighters and police standing along the path to the emergency exit.

Outside Riverdale Volunteer Fire Department personnel handed passengers bottles of water and loaded them onto air conditioned buses as they assessed injuries. While inside, a pregnant woman and a second woman who complained of a bump on her head from the derailment requested medical attention and were escorted off the bus.

About 6:20 p.m., the bus took the remaining passengers whose destination was not West Hyattsville Metro to the Prince George’s Plaza Metro station. Once residents were cleared to exit the bus they either waited until the train came back online or tried to find a bus to take them to their destination.

Passenger Briana DeVincenzo’s mother knocked on the bus door wanting to know if Briana was on the bus. Briana, who is in Greenbelt this summer for an internship, was expecting a visit from her mother this weekend who flew in from Boston that same day.

“I haven’t seen her in five months and the train derails,” DeVincenzo said with a laugh.

Metro’s worst derailment occurred on June 22, 2009 when nine people were killed and 76 were injured when a Red Line train rear-ended another that stopped between the Fort Totten and Takoma stations on the southbound track.

jlyles@gazette.netnmccgill@gazette.net