Man in wheelchair tumbles down Metro escalator, dies

WASHINGTON — It’s still not clear why a man in a motorized wheelchair rode the up escalator at the Columbia Heights Metro station, before tumbling down the moving staircase to his death.

Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly said surveillance video showed the man pressed the “up” button for the underground station-level elevator at about 1:30 p.m.

“A review of camera footage revealed the man waited 10 to 15 seconds for the elevator, which was in service at the time, and then diverted to the escalator,” Ly said. “Upon reaching the top of the escalator, the man and wheelchair fell backward, landing at the bottom.”

Metro Chief Safety Officer Pat Lavin said the escalator then dragged the man up from the bottom a short distance, then shut off, sending him to the bottom again.

D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department spokesman Doug Buchanan said the man was unconscious when first responders arrived. The man was taken to a hospital, where he died.

Metro has not released the man’s name, pending notification of next of kin.

According to Metro’s most recent performance report, elevator availability for the last fiscal year, from July 2017 to June 2018, was 97 percent.

Some elevator riders, many with disabilities, have said Metro’s numbers don’t reflect their experience, and they become exasperated when repeatedly encountering elevators that are not operating properly.

Ly said the station’s elevator was fully functioning at the time of the incident. Lavin said the elevator arrived about a half-minute after the man went to the escalator.

One other passenger suffered minor injuries when the wheelchair hit him, Lavin said.

WTOP’s Carlos Prieto and Max Smith contributed to this report. 

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