Jonathan Rogers wasn’t supposed to be on the Yellow Line last Monday afternoon. He accidentally hopped on what he thought was a Green Line train.
“It was bad luck from the beginning,” he said.
But shortly after his train left the platform at L’Enfant Plaza, the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration alumnus would experience one of Metro’s biggest crises in years.
Rogers said his train was only a short distance from the platform before it stopped suddenly and smoke began to seep through the doors. The conductor told passengers to stay in place and that the train would go back to the platform, but when it attempted to move, it couldn’t.
“The dark smoke got thicker and thicker,” Rogers said. “I could sit in my seat and not struggle too much to breathe, but pretty quickly I started trying to get lower because the air was better lower.”
One passenger on Rogers’ car, Carol Glover, struggled to breathe more than others, Rogers said. He said he and others performed CPR and gave her water, but she eventually lost consciousness.
“This guy in back of me scooped her up and headed toward the back of the train,” Rogers said.
Glover was pronounced dead at GW Hospital that day. The D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled her death accidental Thursday, identifying the cause as acute respiratory failure due to smoke exposure, the Washington Post reported.
Rogers said passengers took care of one another during the incident, sharing inhalers and encouraging each other to lie down on the floor to avoid breathing in the fumes.
More than an hour later, they filed out of the car and walked back to the platform, where they were met by first responders. Eighty-three people were sent to area hospitals, including GW Hospital. Two were in critical condition.
Rogers, a District Department of Transportation employee, has since received widespread attention from media outlets. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser tweeted her thanks to him Tuesday morning.
Thank you @jrogers202 for your courage and strength on Metro yesterday, and especially for helping others who needed it the most.
— Muriel Bowser (@TeamMuriel) January 13, 2015
Officials say the incident was caused by an “electrical arcing” event, which began when an object hit the Metro’s high-voltage third rail. The National Transportation Safety Board is conducting an investigation of the incident, and D.C. Fire and EMS released an initial report Saturday.
Rogers earned his master’s degree in public policy with a focus on urban policy from the Trachtenberg School in 2011. He now analyzes budgets for the city’s transportation department and works on local projects from clarifying street signs to setting regulations for food trucks.
Kathryn Newcomer, the director of the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, said she was excited to hear about Rogers’ role in the incident.
“We are so very proud of Jonathan,” she said. “He was a star student and now he is one of our star alumni public servants.”