Metro operator stops train before it runs over woman on tracks

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Local,Liz Essley,Metro,Metro and Traffic

A Metro train operator saved a life and prevented significant delays for riders during the Friday evening rush after a woman put herself in the path of the oncoming train.

The operator stopped the train before hitting the woman, who was lying down on the tracks at one point "in an obvious attempt to do harm to herself," Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said. The woman then refused to move, causing trains to single-track and delays to spread on the Red Line.

But the operator stopped what could have been a suicide, which costs a life and can cause hours of delays for riders and emotional trauma for witnesses. Suicide has been an ongoing problem for Metro, which has already seen two suicides this year and saw five last year.

Police removed the woman about 15 minutes after she got on the tracks and took her to a local hospital for an "involuntary committal," Stessel said.

Need help?
The American Association of Suicidology says the best intervention comes before a person heads to the subway. The group urges friends, family and co-workers to take seriously warning signs that include:
» Increased alcohol or drug use
» No reason for living or lack of sense of purpose
» Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
» Withdrawal from friends, family and society
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's toll-free number, 800-273-TALK (8255), for direct help or guidance on how to intervene.
Suicides by Metro train
2009 14 cases: 11 deaths and 3 attempts
2010 5 cases: 3 deaths and 2 attempts
2011 10 cases: 6 deaths and 4 attempts
2012 11 cases: 5 deaths and 6 attempts
2013: 3 cases: 2 deaths and 1 attempt
*As of Friday

"We've got a female on the tracks, who is refusing to move, possibly in need of an evaluation of some sort," Stessel said while the incident was still ongoing.

The woman placed herself on the outbound track at the underground Bethesda station.

More details would be available after police filed a report, Metro spokesman Philip Stewart said.

Metro Transit Police removed the woman and took her into custody around 5:45 p.m., allowing trains to back on the track.

Metro has been training its employees in suicide prevention and runs a hot line that suicidal riders can call for help. It pledged to fight the problem of suicides after it had 14 cases and 11 deaths in 2009.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Essley

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner