City Paper is not for tourists
City Desk just spoke to the Metro rider who helped rescue a man from the tracks in the Foggy Bottom station on the Blue Line recently, who provided a little more information on the incident (which the rider also wrote in to Unsuck DC Metro about). The passenger, who prefers not to be named, says he was on his way towards an escalator and out of the station on June 16 when something odd happened.
“I happened to notice out of the corner of my eye that a woman was leaning over the platform ,” the rider says. Though he was caught up in a tide of exiting passengers, he turned around to check things out. “I couldn’t just walk by, ” he says. Drawing closer, he could see that the woman, who was wearing high heels and a business suit, had gotten on her knees to reach for something. Drawing closer still, he could see what she was struggling to get a hold of—a man.
The man looked disoriented, and had fallen on the tracks. “He was trying to get on the platform,” the rider says. Though the platform was full of commuters, no one besides the woman made any attempt to help him.
The man seemed in obvious, imminent danger. It was about 9:30 a.m.”There was obviously not a train there that second, but I was pretty sure one would be there soon because it was rush hour,” the rider says. Running over to give the woman a hand, the rider grabbed the man’s belt while the woman grabbed his arms. The rider says the man on the tracks was a pretty big guy—240 to 250 pounds—but the two nevertheless managed to hoist him to safety.
After that, the rider saw a “station manager hauling butt down there.” As the man now had help, the rider continued on his way to work. WMATA has confirmed the incident took place.
When he thought back on the situation, the rider says, he was bothered by the fact that his fellow train riders had merely watched as the woman struggled to save the man on the tracks. “There were tons of people,” he says. Though some were obviously calling for help on their cellphones, “One person calling was good, but the rest could have helped her.”
Actually, according to Metro spokesperson Lisa Farbstein, you’re not supposed to reach for a passenger who falls on the tracks. Besides the fact that there’s 750 volts coursing through the third rail, the person you’re reaching for could inadvertently doom you. “If somebody had a hold of your arm, and the train is coming, you could be pulled into harm’s way,” Farbstein warns.
Still, it seems unlikely the passive onlookers at Foggy Bottom knew that. Some of them, the rider says, just walked by as if nothing was happening.
So what are you supposed to do if you see someone fall on the tracks? According to Farbstein, high-tail it to one of the two Metro call-boxes on the platform. There, you should be able to reach the station manager. The manager will call headquarters and have them cut the power to the the station, nullifying the threat of oncoming trains and accidental electrocution.