Red Line Crash: Rescuers 'Tried Everything We Could'

Two Red Line Metrorail trains crashed June 22, 2009 between the Fort Totten and Takoma Park stations, killing nine, including one train operator.
By Allison Klein and Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It was so quiet.

A half-hour after a Metro train had slammed into another, when no one was sure who was alive and who was dead, a stunned silence settled over hundreds of people at the scene of the deadliest crash in Metro history.

"It was really, really quiet," said D.C. fire Sgt. Chris Holmes. "Nobody was yelling and screaming. It was weird."

Those who could walk were corralled in a secure area and marked with colored tags to indicate their wounds -- yellow, green and red. Rescue workers were extricating people who were caught in the crash debris.

Holmes, who is part of the special operations division, and his rescue dog, Cazo, were there to comb the wreckage for the wounded and deceased. When Cazo, a black German shepherd, finds someone alive, he barks; when he finds a body, he just sniffs. He was the only working dog on the scene.

They started around the perimeter of the crash and found the first victim about 30 feet in front of the train, on the tracks. Cazo did not bark, and the man was marked with a black tag.

Cazo led Holmes to another victim, beside the train on the track bed. No bark.

Holmes next took Cazo atop the first car of the trailing train. It had been sheared in half and was resting on the rear of the train in front, torn open. They found someone who had been ejected through the roof, still in a Metro seat.

Finally, Cazo barked.

The victim was taken to a hospital. Holmes said he isn't sure whether the person survived.

After finishing the perimeter, he took Cazo inside the train. The dog found a "hot spot" in the operator's compartment, where Metro driver Jeanice McMillan, 42, was found dead.

"He was trying to get in there to get a better scent," Holmes said. "He was definitely trying to get in there." Holmes went in and found McMillan and two dead passengers.

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company