A woman jumps into the river, passengers clear of windows after the Orange Line train catches fire
Somerville, Requiem. — A crowded Orange Line train carrying passengers on a bridge crossing the Mystic River in Somerville caught fire Thursday morning, prompting hundreds of people to seek safety.
A video shared with Boston 25 News showed flames rising from a train carriage and thick smoke rising into the air. An MBTA spokesperson said the train was approaching the assembly station when it caught fire around 6:45 a.m.
About 200 people were forced to evacuate the train, including a woman who jumped into the river and others who slipped through broken windows.
According to the MBTA, the woman who jumped off the train bridge swam ashore and refused to receive medical attention. No other injuries were reported.
The MBTA said shuttle buses have replaced the four-hour service between Oak Grove and Community College. Haverhill Line Commuter Rail trains also stop at Oak Grove to accommodate the flow of passengers.
Shortly after 10:30 AM, the MBTA announced that regular service on the Orange Line had resumed.
MBTA said in a statement:
This morning, an Orange Line train reported flames and smoke from its main car as it passed the bridge between Wellington & Assembly stations. MBTA and emergency personnel responded quickly, turned off the electricity, and safely assisted about 200 passengers from the train. Initial inspection indicates that a portion of the sheet metal, or side panel, on the vehicle appears to have touched the third rod, igniting material under the vehicle. We will be transparent about our findings and will provide updates as they become available. We are extremely disappointed that this incident occurred and we sincerely apologize to our passengers who were on the train, as well as to our passengers as a whole. With a more thorough scan already in place, we will take every necessary step to prevent this from happening again. We understand that this and other recent incidents have tested the confidence of our passengers and the public. We remain committed to prioritizing safety and reliability to provide the service our passengers deserve.
During an afternoon press conference, MBTA General Manager Steve Bufftak announced that a metal threshold cut off the train’s bottom and made contact with the third rail, “causing a flare-up.” He described the latest incident as “extremely frustrating”.
Bovtak noted that the train in question was last checked on June 23, 2022, and first entered service in 1980.
John Jocelyn, who resides in nearby Boston’s Encore Harbor, happened to be looking out his hotel window as the chaotic scene unfolded.
“The train stopped and a spark started coming out from the front, probably about three feet behind the driver,” Jocelyn explained. “I saw a flame and then knew that something had erupted… It swept through it very quickly. The flames caught on. The smoke became very black.”
A video shared by Vladi Ramos, a disabled train passenger, showed passengers running on the rails to get away from the fire.
Another passenger, Gerardo Sainz, said people were “certainly terrified”. He added that the other riders were helping people to stay calm.
The Federal Transit Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have been notified. The MBTA’s Track and Energy departments are examining the infrastructure.
Boston Major Michelle Wu issued a statement, saying: “Today’s incident on the Orange Line is further evidence of an old transportation system in crisis.” It also pledged to work with the state to transform the “crippled” transit agency.
In June, all new Red and Orange Line trains were retired after an out-of-service vehicle experienced a battery failure at Wellington Yard.
The FTA said in a recent report that investigators have found the MBTA has so few employees that the trains are not safe for passengers.
Poftak said last week that the agency was taking steps to ease staffing shortages and to ensure better tracking conditions.
The investigation into the accident is still ongoing.
Watch a slideshow of photos below from the video taken by Vladi Ramos.
This is an evolving story. Check back for updates as more information is available.
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