Electrical problem on smoky DC subway lasted 44 minutes

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Electrical problem on smoky DC subway lasted 44 minutes

A woman coughs hard as she and another woman walk past an evacuation of people from a smoke filled Metro subway tunnel in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. Metro officials say one of the busiest stations in downtown Washington has been evacuated because of smoke. Authorities say the source of the smoke is unknown.

Photo Credit: Jacquelyn Martin, AP

A smoke inhalation victim receives oxygen after passengers on the Metro (subway) service were injured when smoke filled the L'Enfant Plaza station during the evening rush hour January 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. Smoke filled the Washington subway station, forcing the evacuation of startled passengers and forcing afternoon rush-hour commuters to find other ways to get home. 'The source of the smoke has not been determined. The station has been evacuated and is temporarily closed at this time,' Metro said in a statement. Metro is the second-busiest mass transit system in the United States after the New York subway.

Photo Credit: Paul J. Richards, AFP/Getty Images

Metro Transit Police officers secure the entrance to L’Enfant Plaza Station in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. Metro officials say one of the busiest stations in downtown Washington has been evacuated because of smoke. Authorities say the source of the smoke is unknown.

Photo Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP

Metro Transit Police are seen coming out of the L'Enfant Metro Station after smoke filled a Metro car on January 12, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

Photo Credit: Ricky Carioti, Washington Post/Getty Images

Reynaldo Hernandez holds a cloth over his smoke covered face as he coughs deeply after being evacuated from a smoke filled metro subway tunnel in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. Metro officials say one of the busiest stations in downtown Washington has been evacuated because of smoke. Authorities say the source of the smoke is unknown.

Photo Credit: Jacquelyn Martin, AP

Smoke inhalation victims walk past a firefighter towards a medical aid bus after passengers on the Metro (subway) were injured when smoke filled the L'Enfant Plaza station during the evening rush hour January 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. Smoke filled the Washington subway station, forcing the evacuation of startled passengers and forcing afternoon rush-hour commuters to find other ways to get home. 'The source of the smoke has not been determined. The station has been evacuated and is temporarily closed at this time,' Metro said in a statement. Metro is the second-busiest mass transit system in the United States after the New York subway.

Photo Credit: Paul J. Richards, AFP/Getty Images

Metro Transit Police are seen blocking off the entrance and exit to the L'Enfant Metro Station after smoke filled a Metro car on January 12, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

Photo Credit: Ricky Carioti, The Washington Post/Getty Images

A couple holds hands as the man coughs while speaking with a firefighter after people were evacuated from a smoke filled Metro subway tunnel in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. Metro officials say one of the busiest stations in downtown Washington has been evacuated because of smoke. Authorities say the source of the smoke is unknown.

Photo Credit: Jacquelyn Martin, AP

A firefighter assists a Metro passenger with oxygen aboard a MetroBus after folks were evacuated from the L'Enfant Metro Station when smoke filled a Metro car on January 12, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

Photo Credit: Ricky Carioti, The Washington Post/Getty Images

A smoke inhalation victim walks towards a medical aid bus after passengers on the Metro (subway) service were injured when smoke filled the L'Enfant Plaza station during the evening rush hour January 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. Smoke filled the Washington subway station, forcing the evacuation of startled passengers and forcing afternoon rush-hour commuters to find other ways to get home. 'The source of the smoke has not been determined. The station has been evacuated and is temporarily closed at this time,' Metro said in a statement. Metro is the second-busiest mass transit system in the United States after the New York subway.

Photo Credit: Paul J. Richards, AFP/Getty Images

Metro Transit Police officers secure the entrance to L’Enfant Plaza Station in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, following an evacuation. Metro officials say one of the busiest stations in downtown Washington has been evacuated because of smoke. Authorities say the source of the smoke is unknown.

Photo Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP

Metro riders exit onto the National Mall at the Smithsonian metro stop in Washington on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2007. Metro has been troubled with multiple small fires and stoppages over the past few days.

Photo Credit: Jacuelyn Martin, AP

Smoke inhalation victims walk to a medical bus after passengers on the Metro (subway) service were injured when smoke filled the L'Enfant Plaza station during the evening rush hour January 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. Smoke filled the Washington subway station, forcing the evacuation of startled passengers and forcing afternoon rush-hour commuters to find other ways to get home. 'The source of the smoke has not been determined. The station has been evacuated and is temporarily closed at this time,' Metro said in a statement. Metro is the second-busiest mass transit system in the United States after the New York subway.

Photo Credit: Paul J. Richards, AFP/Getty Images

A Metro Transit Police officer walks up the escalator at L’Enfant Plaza Station in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, following an evacuation. Metro officials say one of the busiest stations in downtown Washington has been evacuated because of smoke. Authorities say the source of the smoke is unknown.

Photo Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP

A Pedestrian make their way around emergency vehicles that were parked on 7th Street SW after folks were evacuated from the L'Enfant Metro Station when smoke filled a Metro car on January 12, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

Photo Credit: Ricky Carioti, The Washington Post/Getty Images

Pedestrian make their way around emergency vehicles that were parked on 7th Street SW after folks were evacuated from the L'Enfant Metro Station when smoke filled a Metro car on January 12, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

Photo Credit: Ricky Carioti, The Washington Post/Getty Images

A firefighter is seen boarding a MetroBus with oxygen to assist passengers after they were evacuated from the L'Enfant Metro Station when smoke filled a Metro car on January 12, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

Photo Credit: Ricky Carioti, The Washington Post/Getty Images

A firefighter assists a victim after passengers on the Metro (subway) service were injured when smoke filled the L'Enfant Plaza station during the evening rush hour January 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. Smoke filled the Washington subway station, forcing the evacuation of startled passengers and forcing afternoon rush-hour commuters to find other ways to get home. 'The source of the smoke has not been determined. The station has been evacuated and is temporarily closed at this time,' Metro said in a statement. Metro is the second-busiest mass transit system in the United States after the New York subway.

Photo Credit: Paul J. Richards, AFP/Getty Images

Firefighters confer after passengers on the Metro (subway) service were injured when smoke filled the L'Enfant Plaza station during the evening rush hour January 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. Smoke filled the Washington subway station, forcing the evacuation of startled passengers and forcing afternoon rush-hour commuters to find other ways to get home. 'The source of the smoke has not been determined. The station has been evacuated and is temporarily closed at this time,' Metro said in a statement. Metro is the second-busiest mass transit system in the United States after the New York subway.

Photo Credit: Paul J. Richards, AFP/Getty Images

Washington, DC, firefighters load a victim into a medical bus after passengers on the Washington METRO (subway) service January 12, 2015, were injured when smoke filled the L'Enfant Plaza station during the rush hours. The L'Enfant Plaza metro station in downtown Washington was temporarily closed on Monday after a fire filled the station with smoke, the Washington Metropolitan Travel Authority said in a release. Metro Transit Police and fire department personnel were at the station examining the problem, WMATA said, but had not yet found the source of the problem.

Photo Credit: Paul J. Richards, AFP/Getty Images

Washington, DC, firefighters assist a man(C) and set up mass casuality procedures after passengers on the Washington METRO (subway) service January 12, 2015, were injured when smoke filled the L'Efant Plaza station during the rush hours. The L'Enfant Plaza metro station in downtown Washington was temporarily closed on Monday after a fire filled the station with smoke, the Washington Metropolitan Travel Authority said in a release. Metro Transit Police and fire department personnel were at the station examining the problem, WMATA said, but had not yet found the source of the problem.

Photo Credit: Paul J. Richards, AFP/Getty Images

Metro Transit Police officers, secure the entrance to L’Enfant Plaza Station in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. Metro officials say one of the busiest stations in downtown Washington has been evacuated because of smoke.

Photo Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP

A Washington, DC, firefighter assists a woman to medical aid after she became stuck with other passengers on the Washington METRO (subway) service January 12, 2015, after smoke filled the L'Efant Plaza station during the rush hour. The L'Enfant Plaza metro station in downtown Washington was temporarily closed on Monday after a fire filled the station with smoke, the Washington Metropolitan Travel Authority said in a release. Metro Transit Police and fire department personnel were at the station examining the problem, WMATA said, but had not yet found the source of the problem.

Photo Credit: Paul J. Richards, AFP/Getty Images

A man coughs and spits as he is evacuated from a smoke filled Metro subway tunnel in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. Metro officials say one of the busiest stations in downtown Washington has been evacuated because of smoke. Authorities say the source of the smoke is unknown.

Photo Credit: Jacquelyn Martin, AP

A firefighter sets up a triage area as people are evacuated from a smoke filled Metro subway tunnel in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. Metro officials say one of the busiest stations in downtown Washington has been evacuated because of smoke. Authorities say the source of the smoke is unknown.

Photo Credit: Jacquelyn Martin, AP

Coughing people are taken onto a bus as they are evacuated from a smoke filled Metro subway tunnel in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. Metro officials say one of the busiest stations in downtown Washington has been evacuated because of smoke. Authorities say the source of the smoke is unknown.

Photo Credit: Jacquelyn Martin, AP

A firefighter attends people on a bus to assess triage needs after people were evacuated from a smoke filled Metro subway tunnel in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. Metro officials say one of the busiest stations in downtown Washington has been evacuated because of smoke. Authorities say the source of the smoke is unknown.

Photo Credit: Jacquelyn Martin, AP

A passenger is seen riding a subway train as it leaves the L'Enfant Metro Station in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, part of the public mass transit network for Washington. The transit network in the nation's capital, remains hobbled after an electrical malfunction that filled a L'Enfant Metro subway station with smoke, killing one woman and sending dozens of people to hospitals. The NTSB is investigating the incident, which happened at the beginning of the Monday afternoon rush hour. It led to the first fatality on Washington's Metro system since a 2009 crash that killed eight passengers and a train operator. NTSB investigator Michael Flanigon told reporters that an electrical "arcing" involving the high-voltage third rail led a train to stop in a tunnel and filled the tunnel with smoke. An arcing occurs when electricity from the third rail comes into contact with another substance that conducts electricity, such as water. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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WASHINGTON (AP) - An electrical malfunction that filled a Washington subway train with smoke, killing one passenger and sickening dozens more, continued for 44 minutes before the Metro transit agency shut off power to the affected rail, federal investigators said Friday.

The malfunction began at 3:06 p.m. Monday in a tunnel near the L'Enfant Plaza station in downtown Washington, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report.

The affected train, which was headed for Virginia, stopped in the tunnel at 3:15 p.m., about 1,100 feet short of the source of the smoke, the report said. One minute later, Metro began ventilating the tunnel in an effort to push out the smoke. But Metro didn't shut down power to the affected rail until 3:50 p.m., according to the report. The power was shut down remotely from the subway system's command center.

District of Columbia officials have said their emergency response was delayed because Metro didn't say whether the electrified third rail had been shut down between the platform and the train. The train operator repeatedly told passengers to stay put, and many remained on the train for at least a half-hour before firefighters began evacuating them. Some left the train on their own and walked back to the platform, ignoring the operator's instructions.

District officials said firefighters first reached the train at 3:48 p.m. - two minutes before power to the affected rail was cut off.

Some passengers are already suing Metro for negligence. One of those passengers, Malbert Rich, 53, said he composed final text messages to his mother and children while aboard the train, thinking he might not survive.

Carol Glover, 61, an information-technology analyst from Alexandria, Virginia, died of acute respiratory failure due to smoke exposure, according to the city medical examiner's office. Fellow passengers performed CPR on her before emergency medical workers arrived, and she wasn't taken to a hospital until more than an hour after the train began filling with smoke.

The accident was the first fatality on the nation's second-busiest subway system since a 2009 crash between two trains that killed eight passengers and a train operator. A Metro spokesman declined to comment Friday on the NTSB report.

A second train arrived at the station at 3:25 p.m., the report said, and its passengers were also exposed to smoke.

Passengers said the conductor told them repeatedly that he planned to back the train up and return it to the station once the other train cleared the platform, but aside from several lurches, the train didn't move much at all.

The report does not say what caused the malfunction, which caused severe damage to the third rail and electrical cables. The NTSB is reviewing records on maintenance and previous events with smoke, employee training records and Metro's emergency response and evacuation plans. Investigators are also interviewing the Metro employees involved and reviewing surveillance video.

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