MEXICO CITY – A decision to change cars to be closer to a station exit may have saved Erik Bravo, a 34-year-old financial adviser who survived the collapse of an overhead line in the Mexico City metro that killed 25 people and injured around 80..
Bravo said on Thursday that he and two co-workers used to bring the number 12 line home. His two friends got off late Monday, as usual, at their stops.
Alone, Bravo decided to put on his headphones and use the time before his stop at Olivos station to walk in a few metro cars, to get closer to the exit at the end of the platform when he arrived.
This decision probably saved him from falling into disaster.
“You realize that, in a way, you have a second chance, because it could have been you,” Bravo said.
As his car pulled up beside the platform, he felt the train shake, as if pulled from behind, and shudder to a stop as smoke filled the cabin. A male passenger yelled at people to lie on the ground for safety reasons.
“People were desperate, they tried to break the glass, they wanted to open the windows to escape,” recalls Bravo.
The automatic doors would not open, but a police officer told them that a door was open further.
Bravo walked backwards not knowing that the last two cars of the subway train had fallen into the rubble of the collapsed raised platform.
In one of the last cars still standing on the track, two people were lying unconscious on the ground. A little girl was crying. “I saw a man with his two little daughters,” Bravo said, but he doesn’t know what happened to them.
Stunned, he went home.
“When I got home… we started looking at everything that was coming out on the internet,” Bravo said. “It was a shock, I had been there. We started to see that people were dead, people were missing, injured, and I was there, unharmed, still there.
Authorities say the collapse occurred after a steel beam that held up the elevated line broke. Investigators are now trying to figure out how and why.
The line, the most recent of the metro, runs far into the south side of the city. Like many of the dozens of metro lines in the system, it passes through more central areas of the city of 9 million people, but sits on elevated concrete structures on the outskirts.
Allegations of poor design and construction of the number 12 line emerged shortly after its inauguration in 2012, and the line had to be partially closed in 2014 so that the tracks could be repaired.
The 7.1-magnitude earthquake in the city in 2017 revealed some structural flaws that experts say should have resulted in a complete closure and a full inspection of the line. Instead, authorities applied a few patchwork patches and reopened it.
While Bravo knew there were cracks and flaws, it never occurred to him that he might collapse.
“Yes, you knew there were flaws, but not that kind of flaw that would cause what would happen,” he said.
“They could have avoided this”
Most believe the tragedy was preventable.
“They could have avoided this, if the government had paid attention to the services they provide us,” said another regular passenger on the line, Ana María Luna. “But they didn’t pay attention to all the reports” of faults, she said.
Even with the metro, Luna had to travel for hours to get to her job as a security guard. Since the disaster, his journey has taken three hours.
The collapse temporarily closed the metro line, leaving thousands of residents on the south side dependent on bus service. People lined up to board the buses on Thursday.
“Politicians don’t care whether they are doing things right or not,” said Victor Luna, who was trying to get to his job as a guard.
María Isabel Fuentes, a domestic worker, said the metro’s flaws had worried her for a long time. “Since it opened, it was scary,” she says.
Because it serves low-income neighborhoods, the line rarely seems a priority, she said. “We are the same who always pay.”
Bravo has been busy since his near-crash, fixing an old motorcycle he owns so he can get to work now that the line is out of order. His nights have been sleepless, however, as he reflects on what could have been.
“In a way, I’m grateful to someone, something up there, who for some reason decided it wasn’t my time,” Bravo said.
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