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Report: Oct. 11 fatal accident, Metro gridlock handled well

Thursday - 10/27/2011, 3:34pm  ET

Hank Silverberg,

WASHINGTON -- The Oct. 11 fatal accident on Metro that seized up the train network was handled well by transit staff, a new report finds.

An after-action report from WMATA states Metro personnel mitigated the incident well under the circumstances, after a man jumped in front of a train near the Clarendon station in Arlington, closing the Rosslyn station and stranding thousands of commuters.

The man was struck by the train just before 5 p.m. and was trapped under the train throughout rush hour. Arlington firefighters were called in to free the man -- who was alert and conscious, according to initial reports -- and tried to save his life. He later died.

While that rescue was under way, hundreds of people were stranded for more than an hour on the train that hit the man. Metro diverted 17 trains to alternate routes and thousands of commuters jammed into the Rosslyn station -- a transfer point -- overcrowding the station and tricking a safety alarm that shut down the escalators.

Commuters could help in the future if they signed up for E-alerts from Metro and paid more attention to media reports of trouble on the system, says Metro General Manager Richard Sarles, who has commuted by train for more than 40 years in New York, Philadelphia and Washington.

"I learned a long time ago, if I get the information about an incident that is going to cause a disruption, you don't go down to the station."

Metro is working on better communication within the stations, Sarles says, and with first responders like fire departments coming in to handle the emergency. But Metro staff did a good job in clearing out the system within two hours once the jumper was rescued, he says.

Metro riders were surveyed after the Clarendon/Rosslyn incident, and many shared the same concern: "Where do you go once you're already stuck on the system?"

There is no answer to that.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)