Two suicides prevented in one weekend when Metro trains stop in time

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Metro train operators saved two lives over the weekend by stopping trains in time to avoid hitting two people who had placed themselves on the tracks.

A Metro train operator avoided killing a man who put himself on the tracks at Judiciary Square Saturday night.

And on Friday a Metro train operator averted another potential suicide by stopping in front of a woman at Bethesda.

On Saturday a man put himself in the path of a train headed to NoMa-Gallaudet about 9:08 p.m. The train, which was already moving slowly, stopped in time to make only "minor contact" with the man, Metro spokeswoman Caroline Lukas 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
» Expressing no reason for living or a lack of sense of purpose
» Anxiety, agitation, inability 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: 4 cases: 2 deaths and 2 attempts
*As of Sunday

The man had injuries that weren't life-threatening; he was treated on the platform before being taken to a local hospital, Lukas said.

Trains single-tracked through Judiciary Square during the incident, but normal service was restored within an hour.

During the Friday evening rush, a woman placed herself in the tracks at Bethesda and refused to move even after the train stopped in front of her in time, at one point lying down on the tracks.

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

Trains single-tracked around Bethesda, causing delays throughout the Red Line, though trains were back to two tracks within half an hour.

Metro has already had two deaths by suicide on the system this year, and had five last year. Suicides on Metro, in addition to ending lives, usually cause hours of delays and emotional trauma for witnesses and train operators.

The transit agency is training employees in suicide prevention and runs a hot line that suicidal riders can call for help. It pledged to fight the problem after it faced 14 attempts and 11 deaths in 2009.

Lukas said she could not speculate on whether the training led to the weekend's success in preventing suicides.

"We are ongoing with the training, and we'd like to think that's certainly having an impact," she said.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Essley

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner