Woman jumps into river, passengers evacuate through windows after Orange Line train catches fire – Boston 25 News


Woman jumps into river, passengers evacuate through windows after Orange Line train catches fire

SOMERVILLE, Mass. – A crowded Orange Line train carrying commuters over a bridge that crosses the Mystic River in Somerville caught fire Thursday morning, sending hundreds of people rushing to safety.

Video shared with Boston 25 News showed flames shooting out of a train car and thick smoke billowing into the air. An MBTA spokesperson said the train was approaching the assembly station when it caught fire around 6:45 a.m.

About 200 people were forced to evacuate the train, including a woman who jumped into the river and others who climbed through broken windows.

The woman who jumped off the railroad bridge swam to shore and refused medical attention, according to the MBTA. No other injuries were reported.

Shuttle buses replaced service between Oak Grove and Community College for about four hours, the MBTA said. Haverhill Line Commuter Rail trains also made additional stops at Oak Grove to accommodate the overflow of passengers.

Shortly after 10:30 a.m., the MBTA announced that regular service on the Orange Line had resumed.

In a statement, the MBTA said:

This morning an Orange Line train reported flames and smoke coming from its main car as it crossed the bridge between Wellington and Assembly stations. MBTA and emergency personnel responded quickly, knocking out power and safely assisting approximately 200 train passengers. Preliminary inspection indicates that a section of the sheet metal, or side panel, on the vehicle appears to have come into contact with the third rail, igniting the material under the car. We will be transparent with our findings and provide updates as they become available. We are deeply disappointed that this incident happened and we sincerely apologize to our passengers who were on the train, as well as to our clientele at large. With further inspection already underway, we will take all necessary steps to prevent this from happening again. We understand that this and other recent incidents have tested the confidence of our riders and the public. We remain committed to prioritizing safety and reliability to provide the service our passengers deserve.

At an afternoon press conference, MBTA Managing Director Steve Poftak announced that a metal sill had come loose from the underside of the train and he had come into contact with the third rail, “causing inflammation”. He called this latest incident “incredibly frustrating”.

Poftak noted that the train in question was last inspected on June 23, 2022 and first put into service in 1980.

John Gosselin, who is staying at the nearby Encore Boston Harbor, watched from his hotel window as the chaotic scene unfolded.

“The train stopped and sparks started coming out of the front, probably about three feet behind the driver,” Gosselin explained. “I saw a flame and knew something was up… It engulfed very, very quickly. The flames were rising. The smoke turned very black.

A video shared by Vladi Ramos, a disabled train passenger, showed commuters running down the tracks to get away from the blaze.

Another passenger, Gerardo Saenz, said people were “really freaking out”. He added that other runners were helping people stay calm.

The Federal Transit Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have been notified. The MBTA’s track and energy departments inspect the infrastructure.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu released a statement in which she said, “Today’s incident on the Orange Line is further evidence of an aging transit system in crisis. She also pledged to work with the state to transform the “broken” transportation agency.

In June, all new Red Line and Orange Line trains were withdrawn from service after an out-of-service car experienced battery failure in Wellington Yard.

The FTA said in a recent report that investigators found the MBTA was so understaffed that the trains were unsafe for passengers.

Poftak said last week that the agency was taking steps to ease staffing shortages and ensure better runway conditions.

An investigation into the incident is still ongoing.

See a slideshow of images below from video captured by Vladi Ramos.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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