• Passengers evacuated after MARTA rail line catches fire

    By: Aaron Diamant

    Updated:

    ATLANTA - MARTA service has resumed after smoke sent more than 200 passengers walking through a tunnel to escape.

    Passengers told Channel 2’s Chris Jose their MARTA train filled with smoke so they decided to bail and find their way on foot.

    What caused the fire and why it started are is still under investigation.

    Cellphone video shows dozens of people walking through the MARTA tunnel after prying open the doors to evacuate Thursday evening in midtown near North Avenue.

    “I was afraid I was going to die because I didn't know if the fire was going to track in the tunnel toward us,” passenger Laura Thompson told Jose.

    Thompson said she was in the first car and led the way.

    “That's why my hand has all of this stuff on it, is from the railing I clung to as I walked all way up to the station,” she said, showing Jose her hands.

    As passengers evacuated through the tunnel, inside the train, another passenger gave us video showing some people with their shirts over their face.

    “We didn't know if it was a fire on the train. One person thought the tunnel had collapsed and it was smoke from debris,” passenger Joe Draher told Jose.   

    The Atlanta Fire Department said more than 200 people were onboard the train.

    It's not yet known what caused the fire, but MARTA said it didn't start on the train.

    “We do know it pertained to our third rail which is where we have our high voltage equipment and that may have caused some of the smoke,” said Lt. Aston Green with MARTA’s Emergency Preparedness Unit.

    No passengers were hurt, but some were treated for smoke inhalation.

    “At one point there was total panic on my car. People getting ready to stampede each other,” Thompson said.

    When people settled down, they worked together to get each and every person to evacuate safely.

    “We calmed everybody down and we said, ‘We're going to get out people. We just need to figure out what's going on,” Thompson told Jose.

    Jose learned the fire happened on the south line a few hundred feet from a stop.

    Investigators say there are no signs of criminal activity.

    MARTA released a statement late Thursday evening saying:

    “All MARTA rail service has resumed with single tracking in place along the affected route. Full rail service is anticipated to be in place for the morning commute.

    “A full investigation is underway to determine the cause of the smoke.

    “We apologize for any inconvenience this incident may have caused our passengers and are working to ensure the safest ride possible for all of our customers.”

    MARTA said normal operations resumed on the northbound platform at North Avenue and Midtown.

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