On Wednesday, September 12, 2012, two pedestrians were struck by SEPTA trains within an hour of each other in separate incidents. Shortly thereafter, SEPTA spokesperson Jerri Williams issued a statement to The Philadelphia Inquirer, within which she went on to describe the incidents as nothing more than a “tragic coincidence.”
The first incident occurred after a 16-year-old was struck by a train travelling outbound on the Warminster Regional Rail. Prior to the accident, the boy was walking along the inbound tracks near the Ardsley Train Station in Glenside. He was walking north or outbound, presumably so he would be facing any inbound trains using the rail. However, the rail system was under construction and the inbound track was also being used by outbound trains. As the train approached the engineer blew the horn, yet the teen continued to walk, expecting the train to safely pass along the outbound track. The engineer continued to blow the horn while attempting an emergency stop; however, he was unable to stop the train before striking the teen from behind. The boy was subsequently transported to Abington Memorial Hospital, where he was in critical but stable condition.
Less than an hour later, another incident took place at the Lansdale Station where a man started to walk towards the tracks just as a train was approaching on the Lansdale/Doylestown Regional Rail. The conductor sounded the horn, yet the man continued to cross the tracks before attempting to hoist himself onto the loading platform. The train struck the man and he was thrown to the ground under the train as it slowed to an emergency stop. He was subsequently flown by helicopter to the Hospital University of Pennsylvania for treatment of his injuries, which according one spokesperson, “did not appear to be life-threatening.”
Putting aside their unnerving temporal proximity to each other, the incidents also occurred less than two weeks after a pedestrian was struck by a train at Fern Rock Station and subsequently rushed to Albert Einstein Hospital with unstable vitals. Within a statement issued by Jim Fox, SEPTA’s Director of System Safety and Risk Management, Fox emphasized the fact that neither incident resulted in any fatalities and that the victims will “see another day.” Nevertheless, there has also been a spike in pedestrian fatalities. In 2011 there were 15 pedestrian deaths, which represents a 50% increase over those occurring in 2009 and 2010.
The ability to describe the accidents that occurred September 12, 2012 as just a “tragic coincidence” is entirely contingent upon an isolated assessment. In contrast, when the incidents are considered within the context of their surrounding circumstances (e.g., the recent accident at Fern Rock Station, the overall increase in pedestrian fatalities), one may be more inclined to see the incidents as evidence of an alarming SEPTA trend.