Dozens Injured in Philadelphia Train Accident

More than 33 people were injured, at least 4 of them seriously, when a high-speed train crashed into an empty train at a suburban station near Philadelphia early August 22.  One passenger described it as a “bloody scene.”

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) said the incident happened at around 12:15 a.m.   SEPTA spokeswoman Heather Redfern said an inbound Norristown High Speed Line train crashed into an unoccupied stationary train at the 69th Street Terminal (one of SEPTA’s busiest terminals) in Upper Darby, Pa.

SEPTA officials initially reported that 42 people were injured in the crash. However during a press conference that evening, Ruben Payan, the lead investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), said that the 42 number was the amount of people onboard the train.  The actual number of those injured in the crash is 33 which includes the conductor.  While 4 of the injured are in critical condition, all of the victims are expected to survive.

Payan would not speculate the speed that the moving car was traveling. The Norristown High Speed Line is equipped with Automatic Train Protection, Payan said.  It is a signal system that monitors a train’s speed and includes some automatic braking functions. Whether or not that system was working, and if it should have prevented the accident, will be part of the NTSB review, Payan said.

The NTSB began a review of the crash on Tuesday.  The process will likely take up to a year before a final cause is released.  The 8 person team from the NTSB will review video from the cars, conduct interviews with the dispatcher and operator, and review the vehicles and SEPTA’s safety systems in the course of the investigation, said Payan.  He expected the team would work in Philadelphia up to five days before returning to Washington to review data collected.

The cars are required to undergo a safety inspection every two weeks, said Joe Coccio, secretary-treasurer for Transportation Workers Union Local 234, which represents workers who handle maintenance on the High Speed Line cars. That inspection would include a check of the brakes, he said. The cars also undergo regular maintenance.

The 69th Street center was the site of a crash on the Norristown High Speed Line on Aug. 23, 1986.  That accident injured 44, and eventually 1 death.


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