City Desk

Man Who Helped Save Metro Passenger on Tracks Speaks Out

Ben Schumin/Creative Commons

Ben Schumin/Creative Commons

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.

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  • Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder

    Good for that Lady and the ONLY GENTLEMAN that literally reached out! And they did not get electrocuted. Guess we're becoming very good at finding excuses for everything but acting the way we're supposed to do in such cases.
    Heartwarming to know that there at least are a few of those great people left. We ought to clone them before they're becoming extinct!

    Happy 4th of July to all!


  • Dilbo McSteeves

    A man on the tracks? More annoying than tourists standing on the left! Out of my way, dorks! This is my town! I've lived here for a year!

  • Rick Mangus


  • Manor

    "...according to Metro spokesperson Lisa Farbstein, you're not supposed to reach for a passenger who falls on the tracks."

    I think that pretty much sums up Metro's customer service philosophy.

  • Dave

    But the question remains: what was this guy doing on the tracks in the first place? Had he fallen down there accidentally? Or was he trying to kill himself?

  • foldingtime

    "If somebody had a hold of your arm, and the train is coming, you could be pulled into harm's way,"


    "Our policy at Metro is save yourself and screw everyone else."

  • cbr

    Okay, I'm pretty sure EVERYONE knows that there is a high-voltage rail down there, and that human bodies conduct electricity. And, if the man weighed that much, there's no way in hell I'd risk my life to pull him out, at least alone. Make no mistake, that woman's bravery should be noted, but she WAS putting her life at risk, and we don't know that others weren't necessarily trying to help out by calling 911 or getting the station manager (s/he was alerted somehow, right?). And, by the way, Metro's policy makes a lot of sense -- emergency responders of all kinds get the exact same training. Don't do it if the risk to your life is too great. What if we had a pile-on of 3 or 4 "heroes"? People muck things up all the time trying to help, when really it can just make things worse. Not excusing the jerks that really did just stand by and do nothing, but as someone that has been in the middle of more than one crisis on Metro, the problem was too many helpers, rather than not enough. Let's stop with the condescension, folks.

  • Sean

    I thought the third rail was on the opposite side, away from the platform?