Woman jumps into river, passengers evacuate through windows after Orange Line train goes up in flames
SOMERVILLE, Massachusetts — An overcrowded Orange Line train carrying commuters on a bridge that crosses the Mystic River in Somerville caught fire Thursday morning, leaving hundreds of people searching for safety.
Video shared to Boston 25 News showed flames shooting from a train car and thick smoke billowing into the sky. An MBTA spokesperson said the train was approaching the assembly station when it caught fire at around 6:45 am
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 from the train bridge swam to shore and refused medical attention, the MBTA said. No other injuries were reported.
Shuttle buses replaced the 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 leading carriage as it passed over the bridge between Wellington & Assembly stations. MBTA and emergency services responded quickly, cutting power and helping ~200 passengers safely from the train. A preliminary inspection indicates that part of the vehicle’s sheet metal, or side panel, appears to have come into contact with the third rail, igniting material under the car. We will be transparent about our findings and will provide updates as they become available. We are deeply disappointed that this incident has occurred and extend our sincere apologies to our passengers who were on the train, as well as to our passenger status as a whole. With a more extensive 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 safety and reliability to deliver the service our riders deserve.
At an afternoon press conference, MBTA general manager Steve Poftak announced that a metal sill on the lower part of the train broke and made contact with the third rail, “causing ignition”. He called the 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 resides in nearby Encore Boston Harbor, happened to be looking out his hotel window as the chaotic scene unfolded.
“The train stopped and sparks started coming out the front, probably about a meter behind the driver,” Gosselin explained. “I saw a flame and then I knew something was up… It swallowed very, very quickly. The flames shot up. The smoke turned very black.”
Video shared by Vladi Ramos, a passenger on the disabled train, showed commuters running across the tracks to get away from the fire.
Another passenger, Gerardo Saenz, said people were “absolutely panicked”. He added that other riders helped people to keep calm.
The Federal Transit Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were notified. The MBTA’s rail and power departments inspect the infrastructure.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu released a statement saying, “Today’s incident on the Orange Line is more evidence of an aging transit system in crisis.” She also pledged to work with the state to transform the “broken” transit agency.
In June, all new Red and Orange Line trains were taken out of service after a decommissioned car suffered a battery failure in the Wellington Yard.
The FTA said in a recent report that investigators found the MBTA had so few staff that trains were not safe for riders.
Poftak said last week that the agency is taking steps to reduce staff shortages and ensure better rail conditions.
The investigation into the incident is still ongoing.
Watch a slideshow below with images from the video created by Vladi Ramos.
This is a story in development. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.
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