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Inside Yesterday’s Rescue at the Courthouse Metro Station

(Updated at 6:30 p.m.) When medic Ryan Denelsbeck heard the call come in, for a person struck by a train at the Courthouse Metro station, he assumed the worst.

But yesterday evening, Denelsbeck and Arlington County Fire Department were able to rescue the woman who fell under a Silver Line Metrorail car — and she’s expected to survive.

“We normally expect the worst for a person vs. train scenario,” Denelsbeck said.

He said he was surprised to find the woman in relatively good condition, for someone who had reportedly been hit by a Metro train. While Denelsbeck worked on trying to calm her down and assess her injuries, others members of the fire department were trying to figure out how to extricate her.

Denelsbeck said when he sees the images of the rescue, like the video below, it takes him back to laying down on the side of the Metro platform trying to talk her through it.

The woman had suffered a medical emergency and fallen in an 18-inch gap between the train and the platform, as the train was arriving. The space, according to Captain Kevin Troiano, was a very tricky area for the firefighters to reach. Adding to the difficulty: the woman was disoriented and confused about how she had wound up there, and Troiano said medics had to explain her situation as best they could without causing her to panic.

Battalion Chief Matt Herbert said the main difficulties were the confined space and concerns about the electrified third rail. She wasn’t close to the rail, but Herbert said the rail electrifies all of the “feet” on the bottom of the train.

“The bottom of a Metro car is a very dangerous place,” Herbert said.

There was also the evening rush hour crowd inside the Metro station to deal with. Denelsbeck said one of their initial challenges was dealing with the crowd pressed in around them, but the police were able to keep people back and the station was evacuated to help clear the escalators.

Herbert said they called up the fire officer at WMATA and were able to get power shut down to the trackbed at the station. Once they had assurances that no other trains would be coming through, firefighters were able to get her out of the gap and get her to a hospital. The fire department said it’s unclear whether her injuries were caused by the train or from her fall.

As of today (Friday), officials said she’s in stable condition.

“We got into this job to help people,” Troiano said. “An outcome like this makes that all better.”

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