The sons of Carol I. Glover, the Alexandria woman who died this month after being trapped on a smoke-filled Metro train, filed a $50 million lawsuit against the transit agency Friday, saying they hope that no other passenger will have to suffer the same fate as their mother.
“We want to make sure that something like this never happens again,” said Marcus Glover. “Though we are devastated, we are not bitter. We’re here for justice so that everyone who rides the Metro has the confidence they can get where they’re going safely.”
Flanked by attorney Patrick Regan, Marcus and his older brother, Anthony R. Glover II, said that nothing they do will bring their mother back but that if her legacy can be a system that is safer for all riders, it would offer them some comfort.
Metro spokesman Dan Stessel declined to address the suit in detail: “Unfortunately, we are unable to comment on active or pending litigation matters.”
Glover, 61, was on her way home from work Jan. 12 when the Yellow Line train she and hundreds of others were aboard encountered heavy smoke in the tunnel just outside of the L’Enfant Plaza station and stopped. Minutes later, passengers said, the train’s cars began to fill with smoke. It took more than 35 minutes for emergency personnel to begin evacuating passengers from the stuck train, an effort that may have been hampered by difficulties with radio communications.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident. In a preliminary report, it said an “electrical arcing incident” caused smoke to fill the tunnel. Members of the D.C.-area congressional delegation said they were told that intake fans on the train were not shut down and may have worsened the situation by pulling smoke into the cars. Last week, Metro officials announced a series of interim steps to improve safety on the rail system, including allowing train operators to shut down the fans should a car encounter smoke.
“All of us are at risk when Metro doesn’t follow simple safety rules,” Regan said. “Everything went wrong, and it cost these two gentlemen their mother.”
Glover, a D.C. native, was the first Metrorail passenger to be killed in a Metro incident since the 2009 Red Line crash near Fort Totten. Nine people, including the train operator, were killed and scores injured.
Passengers aboard the Jan. 12 Yellow Line train described a chaotic scene, with the operator running from the front to the back of the train in an attempt to move it back to the station.
Jonathan Rogers, who was riding in the same car as Glover, said he and others struggled to revive her after she began having difficulty breathing and fell to the floor. He and another man gave Glover CPR for more than 20 minutes. At one point, he said, another passenger scooped her up in his arms and carried her to the back of the train in the hope of finding help.
“As a direct and proximate result of Defendant WMATA’s negligence,” the 10-page lawsuit alleges, “Ms. Glover was trapped, helpless, in Train 302 for nearly forty-five minutes as it filled with smoke; during this time she fought, ever more agonizingly, to breathe as the smoke gradually sapped the life from her body.”
When emergency personnel arrived, they tried to revive Glover, but she was later declared dead. According to the D.C. chief medical examiner’s office, Glover died of acute respiratory failure due to smoke exposure. The manner of her death was accidental.
At a memorial service this month, Glover was remembered for her vibrant personality and wide, infectious smile. Friends said she was the ultimate sports mom cheerleader for her sons. On the day she died, she was on her way from a U.S. Department of Agriculture site near the waterfront, where she had been working as a contractor.
The incident at L’Enfant Plaza has raised fresh doubts about Metro’s safety and maintenance procedures. The suit identifies 11 areas where it says Metro officials failed its customers.
Members of the region’s congressional delegation, who were briefed last week about the incident, said they were concerned that more than a decade after Sept. 11, 2001, the region’s emergency responders are still struggling to coordinate a unified response to an emergency situation that involves multiple agencies.
Two early reports, one from the office of D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and one from the District’s emergency management agency, identified breakdowns in radio communication between Metro and D.C. Fire and EMS. For instance, D.C. Fire officials did not learn that there was a train full of passengers in the tunnel until they arrived at L’Enfant Plaza.
Adding to the chaos, firefighters said they had to resort to cellphones and a chain of runners to relay information to the surface during the crisis because Metro’s radio systems were not working. Metro officials blamed officials of D.C. Fire for failing to inform them that they had changed how their radio signals operate.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said he would call for hearings on the matter.
Similar hearings were held after the 2009 Red Line crash.
At least two other suits have been filed against Metro in connection with the Yellow Line incident, and many more are expected.