Metro checking defibrillators after man dies of heart attack

Metro is launching a systemwide check of its defibrillators following the death of a man after an apparent heart attack on a Yellow Line train this week.

The device at Pentagon station was insufficiently charged, according to a Metro statement Thursday, and General Manager Richard Sarles ordered the review.

Transit officials planned to complete checks of defibrillators at 46 rail stations that have them by the end of Thursday. The statement said that by the end of April, Metro plans to put defibrillators at kiosks in all 86 stations and to replace units that date from 2000 with “state-of-the-art” devices.”

Dan Stessel, Metro’s chief spokesman, said the machine at the Pentagon station was ”an older unit.”

Zane Reynolds, 26, of Northeast Washington said he was on the train when a 51-year-old Alexandria man suffered a heart attack Monday. Metro has not released the man’s name.

Reynolds said the train was crossing the 14th Street bridge when he heard “a lot of commotion and saw people hit the emergency button.” At first, he said, passengers thought the man was having a seizure and asked for anyone who knew CPR.

Reynolds said he and three other passengers came to the man’s aid. They laid him on the floor, Reynolds said, but were unable to detect a pulse and started to do chest compressions.

When the train stopped at the Pentagon station, a nurse on the platform asked a Metro employee whether there was a defibrillator, and the employees said there was one near the manager’s kiosk.

Reynolds said he ran and grabbed it and raced back down to the platform.

Reynolds said the nurse tried to use the machine.

“Either the batteries were dead or it didn’t work,” he said. “Everyone had a feeling of panic.”

Emergency workers arrived with their own defibrillator.

“It seemed like a long time from then, but it could have been four or five minutes when first responders got there and took over,” he said.

Metro said in its statement that it took Arlington County first responders about five minutes to arrive.

Stessel said there is no way to know whether a working defibrillator would have made a difference.

But he said Metro plans to improve how it inspects defibrillators.

Station managers will have to sign an inspection sheet at the beginning of their shifts to acknowledge that they have checked status lights on the new machines that show the devices are charged and “functioning properly,” Stessel said.

Dana Hedgpeth is the Washington Post’s lead reporter in covering the Metro rail and bus systems in the D.C. region and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) that runs them.
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