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Technicians fired after woman falls into open escalator hatch

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Two technicians have been fired after an avoidable accident at one of the busiest stations in the system. A woman was injured last week when she walked into an open hatch outside the Pentagon station.

(Photo: Jay Westcott)

The technicians who were working on the broken escalator and accessing it through a floor hatch logged off duty at 2 a.m. They left the hatch open before going home for the night.

A report says that at 6:30 a.m. the next morning, April 20, a 52-year-old woman fell into the hatch. She was using an escalator, which was being used as a walker due to ongoing maintenance, near the entrance of the Pentagon.

She reportedly sustained a right knee injury and laceration on her chin when she fell into an open hatch. She was treated at George Washington Hospital and discharged two days later.

“By practice, this is supposed to be kept closed all the time,” said Dave Kubicek, acting deputy general manager of operations.

 

The hatch

 

WMATA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said that two escalator technicians were dismissed a day after the incident.

“Sounds kind of ridiculous, like a cartoon-type thing. When there's a hole in the ground, you put up a sign,” said Metro rider Cory Jones. Metro safety officials today conceded they should have better signs and should set up interlocking metal barriers around gaping holes.

Metro has had staff notices and regular meetings to reinforce that the hatches need to remain closed, he said during Thursday's safety committee meeting. Now the plan is to put more coverage around it.

“When I hear all these stories I get nervous and then I'm like 'I don't really want to ride the Metro,’ ” said Erin Sullivan.

The standard practice is for the hatch to be kept closed by workers. The hatch should have been closed and logged out.

ELES technicians had logged into the station kiosk log at 11:30 p.m. the previous night and logged off 2 1/2 hours later. Surveillance cameras did not cover the area. An awning blocked the Pentagon view.

 

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