US commuter rail accident in Pennsylvania injures over 30

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Temple University station, where the injured victims were unloaded off of the R6.
Image: Daniel Marvin.

Shortly after 5:00 pm EDT on Monday, a northbound R6 SEPTA Regional Rail train collided with a northbound R5 train in the Center City section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The collision occurred underground past Philadelphia's Market East Station, near 9th and Vine Streets. About 30 to 40 people on board the two trains suffered minor injuries, most of whom were riding in the front of the R6 train, however no serious or life-threatening injuries were reported.

The R6 train, heading towards Norristown, Pennsylvania, departed Suburban Station at 4:44 pm, and arrived at Market East Station at 4:50 pm. The R5 train, heading towards Doylestown, Pennsylvania, was running late and traveling right behind it was the R6. Shortly after the R5 departed from Market East Station, the train deployed its air brakes in the tunnel, and then collided with the R6. Although the collision occurred at only around 10 mph (16 km/h), the impact was great enough to toss passengers out of their seats. One rider claimed, "All of the sudden, there was a real hard jerk, and the train just came to a complete stop. It felt like we hit something hard. But I was all right."

After the collision, the R5 train was unloaded, and its 17 injured victims were taken to Jefferson University, Hahnemann University, and University of Pennsylvania hospitals. After backing up to Market East Station to unload its passengers, the R6 later proceeded to the Temple University station to unload those who were injured, after officials realized it would be easier to unload at the above-ground station. Police officers from the Philadelphia Police Department, SEPTA, and Temple University, rushed to the Temple University train station upon the train's arrival to help transport injured victims to the nearby Temple University Hospital. Firefighters and paramedics arrived at the station to assist the victims as well, transporting some of them off the train on stretchers.

Uninjured passengers on the R6 train were transported by bus from Market East to Temple University, where they boarded an arriving R6 express train, which immediately switched to local service. Following the collision, all trains passing through Market East Station were affected by delays of at least 20 minutes or more. The out-of-service R6 train remained on one of the two outbound tracks at Temple University station, causing all incoming trains from Center City to queue behind one another on a single track, causing great delays for arriving trains at that station as well.

Paramedics remained on the scene for two hours, and the accident scene was finally cleaned up by 7:00 pm EDT. By 8:00 pm EDT, Regional Rail trains were running back on schedule after encountering delays of up to one hour.

Authorities do not know the cause of the accident, however it is presumed to be a human error by one of the train's engineers. According to a SEPTA official, "Trains are never under any circumstances supposed to be close enough to make contact so we take that very seriously and will be investigating that very seriously." Investigations on the accident have begun by both local and federal officials, and the first meeting on this incident will be held by SEPTA on Wednesday.