- Investigators today were trying to trace
a mysterious man who walked through a MARTA car coughing and staggering
just seconds before passengers began having trouble breathing.
- MARTA authorities said today they still
have no idea what forced 21 passengers from one car of a southbound train
to seek treatment at Grady Memorial Hospital.
- Doctors sent home everyone except a 14-year-old
boy whose throat swelled shut. Hospital staffers inserted a tube to his
lungs to keep him breathing, said Dr. Philip Shayne, a Grady emergency
- The boy was in satisfactory condition
today, said Grady spokeswoman Barbara Vogel.
- "He's doing very well," Vogel
said. "His breathing problems are looking better. "
- Officials shut down the Oakland City
MARTA station, disrupting the commute for two hours during the evening
rush hour. The station was operating normally today.
- The FBI's domestic terrorism squad joined
the investigation because of reports that a man sprayed something into
the train, said Celestine Armstead, spokeswoman for the FBI's Atlanta office.
- However, Dee Baker, a spokeswoman for
MARTA, said investigators had found no one who saw anything sprayed. She
said the investigation was centered on a man dressed in "a heavy coat
and shorts" who entered the car through a back door at the West End
- The man coughed uncontrollably, gasped
out an expletive, walked up the aisle clutching at seats to keep himself
balanced and staggered out through the middle door, she said. Seconds later,
on the two-minute run to Oakland City, passengers began falling ill.
- "He seemed to have been exposed
to the same thing or something similar as the passengers," Baker said.
- She said investigators had found no one
who noticed the man at West End before or after he passed through the
car. She said they were checking to see whether he showed up on security
videos at the station. No one saw him spray anything, she said. "He
had his hands covering his mouth or holding on to the seats."
- MARTA Police Chief Gene Wilson said he
had conflicting reports about what the man looked like.
- The first victims were the seven riders,
the first MARTA police officer to enter the train at 6:12 p.m., and a MARTA
rail supervisor, Wilson said.
- Of the 21 victims, those most seriously
affected coughed, felt tightness in their chests, had eye irritation, felt
nauseated and had difficulty breathing.
- Medical care for the victims began at
the MARTA station. Atlanta firefighters hosed off victims, dousing the
fully clothed people with a light stream of water. Ambulances took them
- At the hospital, the victims stepped
off the ambulances and into plastic decontamination tents. Hospital staffers
escorted the victims through a series of showers.
- Because no one knew what the substance
was, Grady workers placed all sheets, towels and materials in red hazardous
waste bags. They also drained the shower water into barrels, instead of
letting it go into the Atlanta sewer system.
- Those who were released were given green
hospital scrubs to wear because their clothes were confiscated by the FBI
to identify the substance, Vogel said.
- Every emergency employee who came into
contact with the victims from the train went through the same decontamination
process at the scene and then again at Grady.
- Staff writers Mike Morris, Gita M. Smith,
Doug Payne and Cory McDonald contributed to this article.