Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

First Metro suicide of 2012 as a woman apparently kills herself at Van Dorn

January 6, 2012 - 10:19 AM
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The Van Dorn Street Metro. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Ben Schumin)

"There was an incident at Van Dorn Street," a Metrorail conductor told riders on one train this morning, recalls rider Stephen Wilkes. "We had a jumper."

We're less than a week into the new year but already there is a report of an apparent suicide on the Metro tracks this morning. The incident happened at the Van Dorn Street Metro station in northern Virginia around 7:15 a.m. this morning, according to Metro.

In the words of WMATA, the adult woman "appears to have intentionally placed [herself] in the path of the train" and before long, a Blue Line train that was likely traveling the standard speed of 60 miles/hour in the direction of Largo Town Center appeared and "fatally injured" the person on the tracks. She succeeded at killing herself if that was her goal, in other words.

Metro Transit Police and emergency services arrived at the scene shortly, and the Blue Line began suffering from delays in both directions earlier this morning amid single-tracking. You can see images of the emergency and security vehicles here and here. "I think every cop and firefighter in Springfield is at the Van Dorn Metro right now," Mike Parsons observed earlier this morning. Patch editor Will Sommer announced on Twitter that WMATA turned him away from the scene "for being media. Wasn't crossing tape, passengers were allowed in. Don't think that's allowed." WMATA has since spoken with Sommer, the agency tells me, and is attempting to determine whether it was Alexandria police, Metro Transit Police, or other officials who turned the reporter away and hopes to clarify the situation later.

Van Dorn itself remained mired in emergency officials for multiple hours after the suicide. See a photo of the orange cones and yellow emergency tape that covered the platform here.

WMATA finally removed the train that struck her shortly before 9 a.m. and delays at Van Dorn ended by about 9:20 a.m.. although trains continued to single track as the agency continued to investigate. It's been a rough first week of 2012 for the transit agency, with the cracked rail delays on Wednesday morning and then major track issue on Thursday afternoon.

This morning's incident comes after a 61-year-old NW man was struck by a WMATA train at Metro Center last night at 11:55 p.m. WMATA spokesperson Dan Stessel told me that this man survived and was transported to the hospital and is now in a serious but stable condition. These are the "first and only two incidents in 2012" as of Jan. 6, according to Stessel. Last year there were fewer than a dozen suicides throughout the WMATA system, but they tended to attract great attention when they happened and created several commuter delays.

To hear of a suicide so soon in the year is tragic, unfortunate news. Just this week, I spoke of the suicide hotline numbers I saw posted at the stations of the Long Island Railroad up north. Metro stated its intention to post hotline numbers as well after a high-profile suicide at the Clarendon Metro station last October, which disrupted commutes during rush hour and sparked many questions for how the agency handles emergencies. I've asked Metro for a timeline regarding these suicide hotline postings, which Stessel tells me he's investigating now. I'll let you know when I have any additional information.

Update, 2 p.m.: A rider from the very Blue Line train that struck the 56-year-old Alexandria woman speaks about what Van Dorn Street was like in the moments after the suicide.

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