7Investigates: MBTA Safety

BOSTON (WHDH) - Two months after a fire filled an Orange Line train with smoke, one of the panicked passengers says the T isn’t doing enough to keep commuters safe.

A fire on the tracks. Smoke filling the train. T riders trapped on board.

“Some of us thought we were going to die that day on the Orange Line,” said Amy Glennon, who was riding on that train.

Glennon’s train came to a stop between the Wellington and Malden Center stations on Aug. 23 – a day she will never forget.

“People come in saying, ‘Fire! Fire! Run!’” Glennon said.

The smoke thickened, and the train doors wouldn’t open.

“We had shirts over our mouths. I was coughing,” Glennon said. “I heard someone say, ‘We’re trapped.’ I saw the fire, and in that moment, I thought I was going to die.”

She texted her husband “143” – their shorthand for “I love you” – and then, “Fire. I’m trapped.”

“I thought I was going to die in that moment. And I was ready to think, ‘OK, please let this be quick. I hope I don’t suffer,’” Glennon said.

Riders had to fend for themselves, prying the doors open to escape.

“There’s no guidance whatsoever. We were there to save ourselves,” Glennon said.

When asked whether she heard any announcements over the loudspeakers, Glennon replied, “Not one announcement. And we were waiting for the guidance.”

Glennon said she didn’t see or hear from a single T employee until riders were already heading down the tracks toward the nearest station.

“It’s disturbing. It’s a serious public safety concern,” Glennon said.

When 7 Investigates asked the MBTA for answers, it admitted that announcements on that train should have been made sooner, and could have led to a calmer, more orderly evacuation with T workers on hand to help.

The T also said that it reviewed its emergency response to that fire and is already making changes as a result. It pointed out that the new Orange and Red Line trains that T recently started rolling out allow workers at its control center to make announcements directly to riders. The T also plans to put new exit signs and glow-in-the-dark markings inside all trains to help explain evacuation procedures and what instructions would be given by the train operator.

The MBTA also provided the following statement to 7 Investigates:

“Fully recognizing the seriousness of the incident, the MBTA immediately launched a comprehensive analysis of the sequence of events as part of the T’s unceasing efforts to improve the manner in which emergency situations are managed. With the safety of MBTA riders and employees of paramount importance, a number of changes are already being implemented. Constantly striving to provide customers with the safe and reliable service they deserve, the MBTA is absolutely committed to not only learn from this experience, but also to use it to significantly enhance procedures and protocols for handling any incidents of an urgent nature.”

When Glennon contacted the MBTA with her concerns, General Manager Steve Poftak called her personally. Still, she said she has not set foot on the T since that traumatic ride, and said that it’s a miracle no one was seriously hurt.

“We don’t want to wait for the disaster to happen before a change occurs,” Glennon said.

The fire was sparked when a sign fell and touched electrical equipment on the bottom of the train. As a result, the T said it’s also changing how often it inspects signs along the tracks.

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