Railroad News

Philadelphia Area Commuter Trains Collide, Injuring Dozens

(Upper Darby, Pennsylvania – August 22, 2017)

A high-speed Southeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) commuter train, carrying an as-yet undetermined number of passengers, smashed into a parked, unoccupied SEPTA train shortly after midnight (12:15 A.M., EDT) last Tuesday. The collision occurred at one of the commuter rail carrier’s busiest stations, injuring dozens of homeward-bound riders. Four of the passengers were hospitalized in serious condition.

Early reports indicated at least 41 passengers and the engineer suffered injuries in the crash between the two SEPTA trains. The as-yet unidentified engineer was treated and released as victims who required treatment were spread among seven area hospitals. The train was arriving at SEPTA’s busy 69th Street Station.

The accident represented yet another collision that could have been prevented had the Congressionally-mandated Positive Control System, a satellite and computer-guided safety system, designed to prevent or lessen the severity of train collisions, been in place.  But the railroad industry, as a whole, has secured numerous delays in activating the life-saving system.

There were no preliminary evaluations of cause for the collision, but numerous passengers felt speed was a definite factor. The National Transportation Safety Board had dispatched a team of investigators to study the situation.

“There was blood everywhere,” testified one witness, Raymond Woodard, to news media at the scene. “The driver (engineer) is all banged up, and there was this one girl bleeding out of her face pretty bad.”

“I heard the train going real fast – like, super fast,” recalled Woodard, who was among the injured passengers. “And I looked up and saw that we’re at 69th Street, and said ‘Why are we going so fast?’, and then we just hit the (standing) train. Boom! I fell out of my chair, glass from the window shattered, (and) I hit my head. Everybody was on the floor.”

In February of this year, four SEPTA employees were injured near the 69th Street Station when two out-of-service SEPTA trains rear-ended one another on a reverse loop track used to turn trains in the opposite direction.

The moving train Tuesday was operating on the Norristown High Speed Line. Upper Darby is about 30 miles west of Philadelphia.