Metro Transit Police have not filed charges against a woman being detained in a bomb scare that occurred on a Red Line train Monday because of her mental condition.
Dan Stessel, a Metro spokesman, said the woman remains at an undisclosed mental health facility in Maryland where she is being evaluated and treated. He said there is “no plan to file charges given her mental state.” The woman was “involuntary committed” Monday, and Metro Transit Police still haven’t talked to her, he said.
The Rockville station was closed for two hours while authorities searched for explosives and found none. There were no serious injuries.
On Tuesday, Metro authorities released audio of the call to police from a passenger who was aboard the Red Line train involved in Monday's bomb scare.
The call, which came in at 7:47 a.m., features the voice of a woman reporting the incident to police, while the loud muffled voice of another passenger tries to notify the train operator via the intercom that a woman is allegedly making threats.
The caller, whose name was withheld, told the Metro Transit Police operator, “There's a lady on the train; she just got off. She had a pink stripped shirt with a brown headdress. She said she had a bomb.”
The caller told the operator that the female suspect was talking on her cellphone and “yelling that there was a bomb on the train. She was going to some grave site . . .”
The caller described the suspect as being of Indian descent with a “very strong accent.”
Selethia Cole, 39, of Forestville, was operating the Red Line train that experienced the bomb scare Monday.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Cole said she was pulling out of Rockville Station around 7:45 a.m. when some passengers aboard her eight-car train used the emergency intercom to call her.
At first, Cole said, she “couldn’t make out what they were saying,” so she stopped the train. She said she told the passengers, some of whom were yelling, to “please calm down and repeat what they were saying.”
Cole said a man then said clearly, “There’s a woman on the train and she said there’s a bomb on the train. She’s going to blow up the station and kill everybody.”
Cole said her eyes “lit up like a light bulb” when she realized what the passengers were telling her.
“I told him please remain calm,” she said, and she called Metro’s central control to tell them of the situation. Seven of the rail cars had already left the station platform.
Metro Transit Police were immediately called to the scene, officials said, but panicked passengers used the emergency-release levers to open the train doors manually, jumped onto the track and began walking toward the Twinbrook station.
When Cole noticed passengers walking alongside the stopped train in the track bed, she said she worried that they would get too close to the high voltage of the third rail, which powers the trains.
Cole said she tried to explain to the passengers from the cab of her train that walking on the track is dangerous.
“I was worried about the bomb but I also didn’t want people to get electrocuted,” she said. “That’s 750 volts. I was pleading with them ‘Please, please, get back on the train.’
“They were saying they weren’t getting back on the train because they were scared,” she said. “I asked them to stay put then so I could go back and do my job and see what was going on. There was just one of me and I was just doing the best I could.”
Some passengers stayed put or — with Cole’s help — returned to the train using a safety ladder. Metro authorities said about 35 people walked in the track bed towards Twinbrook.
Cole walked back through the train to see what was going on. As she walked the aisle, she said, she told passengers, “Please remain calm. Be patient with me.”
She said she didn’t say there was a bomb as she passed through the rail cars, but most of the passengers already knew because others were running and saying there was an alleged bomb.
Cole found that the more information she gave people, “the calmer they became,” she said. A few panicked passengers left behind their purses, bags and cellphones as they exited the train from the last car onto the station’s platform.
Authorities said they think the female suspect evacuated the train through the last car, along with other customers, and walked onto the station platform.
Cole said the passengers helped identify the suspect, pointing her out saying, “There she goes; there she goes,” as she walked along a sidewalk in the “Kiss and Ride” area where Metro Transit Police caught her.
“I was able to call [central control] and let them know where she was,” Cole said. “The customers helped me as much as I helped them.”
The female suspect was taken to Shady Grove Adventist Hospital and later “involuntarily committed” and transferred to an undisclosed mental health facility, Metro said. The woman has a “permanent resident card for the U.S., but an Indian passport,” according to Metro officials. Police withheld the woman’s name because she is undergoing a mental health evaluation and has not been charged.
Cole has worked for eight years as a train operator. Prior to that she worked three years as a bus driver and then as a station manager on the Orange Line.
On Monday, once the incident was cleared, Cole, who started her day at 4 a.m., said she went back to operating a train on the Red Line and worked until 5 p.m. When she got home that evening she told her three older children of the incident.
“They were asking, ‘Were you scared?’ ” Cole said. “For some reason, I wasn’t scared. I just felt calm. If I was scared and the passengers were scared I realized nothing’s going to get done. Somebody’s got to stay calm.”
On Tuesday, when Cole pulled into the Rockville station while operating a train, she said she thought briefly of Monday’s bomb scare.
“I was just praying to God it doesn’t happen again,” she said.
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