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Man fatally dragged by Metro train after dog leash is caught in doors

(Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)
2 min

A man died Wednesday after he was dragged by a Metro train when a dog’s leash that was attached to him became caught in the doors, transit officials said.

Metro spokesman Ian Jannetta said the incident occurred shortly before 1:30 p.m., when Metro’s Rail Operations Control Center and transit police received a report of a person being dragged by a train at the Dunn Loring station in Fairfax County. Jannetta said the man was taken to a hospital, where he died of his injuries.

Metro Transit Police said the man had brought a dog with him onto the train, then was exiting at Dunn Loring. He had walked off the train and onto the station platform, police said, but the dog remained on the train while hooked to a leash that was tied to the man. The doors closed, with the man and the dog on opposite sides.

Police said the train operator, who was about 450 feet away, performed two safe-door checks before leaving the station.

“This obstruction caused the individual to be dragged on the train platform and onto the tracks,” police said in a tweet.

Only service animals or those in a secure carrier are allowed on Metro trains or at stations. Police said the dog in the incident at Dunn Loring does not appear to be a service animal. It had no ID and is in the care of police.

The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission, a regulatory agency created by Congress to oversee system safety, said it has opened an investigation into the incident.

While Metro trains have been through tests in recent years to automate door operation, all trains in passenger service open and close manually via the train operator, safety commission spokesman Max Smith said.

Under Metro guidelines, an operator performs safety checks and other protocols before closing doors at stations and resuming the run, Smith said. Car doors have sensors to detect obstructions, and Metro trains have safeguards to prevent them from moving until such objects are cleared.

But the system will not stop a train from moving unless the object is of a certain size, such as a body part, Smith said.

Metro suspended Orange Line service for more than an hour between the Vienna and West Falls Church stations during an investigation. Metro shuttle buses took riders to nearby open stations Wednesday as transit police were at the scene.