The Washington, D.C., Metro suffered a tragedy Jan. 12 after an electrical malfunction on the subway line filled the cars with smoke, putting 67 people in the hospital and killing Drexel University alumna Carol Glover.
The smoke filled the air, poisoning the passengers for 44 minutes until the transit authority shut off the power on the malfunctioning rail. Glover died from acute respiratory failure from the smoke while the other passengers attempted to perform CPR on her until emergency services arrived. She did not reach a hospital until almost an hour after the accident.
Glover, 61 years old and living in Alexandria, Virginia, was an information technology analyst at DKW Communications Inc. Before that, she was a government contractor. Glover graduated from Drexel University in 1976 with bachelor’s degrees in business administration and computer science.
According to the Office of Alumnia Relations, “Carol Inman earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration [in 1976]. She studied Administrative Systems Management. When she attended Drexel, she was a member of the Afro American Society, the Bowling Club, and the Japanese Karate Club. She also worked at the WKDU Radio Station.”
She was a woman of deep faith and was cherished by her family, now her death foreshadowing a positive change in passenger safety. According to Glover’s mother, Corrine Inman, Glover’s father had died the same day as Glover in a house fire from smoke inhalation.
Memorial services were held Jan. 19 at the Capitol Hill Baptist Church, which her family regularly attended.
The National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary report on the incident Jan. 16. The train stopped 1,100 feet short of the source of the smoke. At first, Metro attempted to ventilate the tunnel to push out the smoke, to no avail. The passengers were still exposed to the smoke, to the point where almost 200 people were evacuated afterward. Another train that arrived 20 minutes after the first also had its passengers affected by the smoke. According to the District of Columbia, emergency services were delayed because the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority failed to indicate whether the electrical third rail was shut down.
In its report, the NTSB said that it is still unaware of what could have caused the malfunction and is investigating further. It will also investigate Metro’s emergency preparedness and communications during the incident.
Passengers were told to stay in the train until emergency services arrived. However, some passengers refused to remain in the smoke-filled cars, got off and walked back to the platform. Jonathan Rogers, one of the passengers who had attempted to revive Glover, expressed his frustration with Metro’s procedures in the emergency to NBC Philadelphia. “It just kind of felt like, ‘Why were we trapped on that train that long?’” he said. “All we did was sit there and wait. Forty minutes seems like a long time.”
Rogers was with Glover in the front of the train, where the smoke was reported to be heaviest. He attempted to revive Glover for 20 minutes. “We know you do chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth, so that’s what we did,” he described. “Nothing was happening, and she was laying there unconscious. Somebody [tried to take] her pulse and said they couldn’t feel a pulse.” The conductor attempted to reverse the train, but it responded with only a few lurches.
According to NBC Philadelphia, NTSB Acting Chairman Christopher Hart spoke to the press, saying, “Metro has made a major improvement on safety culture … [but] there’s always room for more improvement.”
People experiencing the incident shared their experience on social media. Others, like Malbert Rich, composed their final words to their loved ones, according to CBS News. “I told my mother I loved being her son, and I told my kids I loved being their dad,” he said. Rich was released from Georgetown Hospital four days after the incident.
Rich also described how Metro was dealing with the situation, complaining about the constant and disorganized orders coming from the intercom. His lawyer, now suing Metro for its negligence in providing immediate help to the passengers, told reporters that they “should not have been trapped like rats stuck in a subway car filling with smoke.” Rich is one among several passengers who are suing Metro.
Metro released a letter to its riders in The Washington Post on Jan. 18. “We apologize to all Metro riders, and particularly to the family of Carol Glover and those injured or impacted by the events of Monday afternoon,” it read.
“Metro has committed its full resources and is actively participating in the NTSB investigation. Recognizing that our riders depend upon the region’s emergency responders, we have been steadfast in participating in drills with other agencies. … Our safety work is not complete; it will never be.”
A page on fundraising website GoFundMe was started by members of Glover’s church Jan. 16 in order to pay for her funeral, with a goal of $10,000. As of Jan. 20, it has already reached over $18,000. Information on donating can be found at http://www.gofundme.com/k6ebyk.