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Riders contradict Metro escalator accident reports

Tuesday - 8/7/2012, 2:57pm  ET

Something snagged the panel, ripping it off the escalator, Metro says. (WTOP/Kristi King)
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Riders respond to escalator accident

WTOP's Kristi King


Paul D. Shinkman,

WASHINGTON - As Metro continues to investigate an accident on an escalator at the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station Tuesday morning, it remains unclear specifically how five people were injured.

Spokesman Dan Stessel says a customer was dragging a "mid to large size" bag on the escalator's metal panel side skirt around 8:40 a.m. Tuesday.

The bag snagged, causing the panel to rip off the escalator and strike several people. Five were hurt and three were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

"That's not what they're designed for," Stessel says of the escalators. "The bag got caught in a seam between two panels, and the customer then tried to pull the bag, and ultimately pulled the entire panel off."

However, one woman who says she witnessed the incident tells WTOP the piece of metal was already loose and came off after digging into a woman's leg, tripping her and causing a chain reaction on the moving escalator.

"People started screaming and a women's leg had gotten caught," says D.C. resident Rachel Frankel, who contacted WTOP and says she witnessed the event from the platform. "As she walked by down the escalator, the metal got caught in her leg and tripped her."

The woman fell and caused other Metro riders to fall. She and another rider got deep gashes in their legs, Frankel says.

"I didn't find it surprising that someone got hurt because it was clearly a hazard that was sitting there," she says.

Frankel says she and another rider pushed the emergency stop buttons at the base of the escalator.

She didn't see any Metro employees, so she contacted Metro Transit Police.

Frankel's story is confirmed by at least two other riders via Twitter:

Other riders helped the first woman to the floor, where one offered a towel from his gym bag to cover her wound, Frankel says.

Roughly three minutes later, a woman who said she is a Metro employee and hadn't yet begun her shift came down to the platform with a walkie-talkie. She asked to borrow a pen and paper to document details, says Frankel.

Roughly three minutes after that, the first Metro police officers showed up, Frankel says, and none of them offered medical attention to the injured woman. Roughly 10 minutes after the incident began, Frankel got on a train and left.

Metro Boardmember Jim Dyke, a member of the Safety and Security Committee, says the incident reinforces a broader effort by Metro.

"We have had a streak recently of a few (incidents) running together," he says. "Clearly we have more work to do."

Metro has a "true commitment" to safety from General Manager Richard Sarles "on down," says Dyke. He says he has confidence in Metro's commitment to safety, and believes Metro maintains a high level of respect.

This story will update. Stay with WTOP for more.

WTOP's Adam Tuss and Kristi King contributed to this report. Follow Paul, Adam , Kristi and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)