At least 30 people suffered injuries in a train crash near Philadelphia on Tuesday, August 22. The accident happened at the 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, at around 12:15 a.m. Although none of the injuries were life-threatening, four people were taken to local hospitals with critical injuries. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the crash, which is the latest in a string of commuter train accidents.
SEPTA Train Collided with Parked Train
The NTSB has said it will not determine the cause of the accident while it is on the scene. After four or five days collecting evidence, investigators will move back to Washington, D.C. to determine what caused the collision. They will have the help of onboard video recorders from both trains.
Among the information immediately available following the crash:
- SEPTA train #155 struck railcar #148 as train #155 entered the 69th Street Terminal;
- Railcar #148 was parked and empty at the time of the collision; and
- Some witnesses reported that train #155 was traveling fast before the accident.
“I was waiting at Gulph Mills, the train came by and blew past us about two or three train lengths—stopped, backed up and picked us up,” said Ronnie, a passenger on train #155. “The same thing happened at Bryn Mawr—drove past, backed up, picked us up. We got to the terminal, I stood up to get off and smack.”
Officials have not said why the train sped past two terminals or how fast it was moving.
More than 30 Injured in Pennsylvania Train Accident
According to reports, there were 42 people on board at the time of the Upper Darby train crash. Of those, 33 people including the operator suffered injuries, although initial reports suggested all 42 were injured. Four of the injured passengers suffered critical injuries, though all are expected to survive. Three victims were taken to Lankenau Medical Center, while the operator was taken to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center and was released later that morning.
“My face hit the wall, put a big hole in the wall and I went straight down and I blacked out,” Ronnie told reporters. “There was blood everywhere. The driver is all banged up and there was this one girl bleeding out of her face pretty bad.”
Upper Darby Train Crash is the Second this Year at 69th Street Terminal
In February 2017, four people were injured when an out-of-service Market-Frankford El train crashed into two other trains while on a turnaround loop at the end of the line. Although the train was not in service, two passengers and two operators were injured. One of the operators was taken to a local hospital with critical injuries.
In all, seven cars derailed in the accident. The 69th Street station was out of service for hours as officials investigated the crash.
Mayor Expresses Concern Over Train Station Safety
Upper Darby Mayor Thomas Micozzie told reporters he is concerned about safety at the 69th Street station. The station uses Automatic Train Control, which provides the operator with an in-cab warning when the train is traveling faster than the speed limit. If the operator does not slow the train down, the system takes over.
The station does not have Positive Train Control, which halts a train that does not obey a stop signal.
An eight-member team is investigating the crash, including the train’s mechanical operation, crashworthiness, and the emergency response.
“Our mission during this accident investigation is to understand not just what happened but why,” Ruben Payan, NTSB investigator, said. “Why it happened and to recommend changes to prevent it from occurring again.”
One area of investigation could be why the floors inside the train’s car buckled, causing injuries to passengers. Another area that investigators are expected to look into is why SEPTA leaves unoccupied trains on its tracks.
Multiple Train Crashes in the News in 2017
The most recent commuter train crash is just the latest in a string of train crashes that highlight the need for adequate safety measures on train lines.
- On June 27, 2017, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) train derailed, injuring more than 30 passengers.
- In March and April 2017, two separate derailments at Penn Station highlighted the need for a safety review of the station.
- In January 2017, a Long Island Rail Road train derailed, injuring more than 100 people.
Perhaps the most infamous recent train crash in Philadelphia was the 2015 Amtrak crash that resulted in eight deaths and sent more than 200 to the hospital. Officials recently announced the train’s engineer faces eight counts of involuntary manslaughter, plus counts of reckless endangerment and causing or risking a catastrophe.