SEPTA Throws Driver Under the Bus in Passenger Death

SEPTA says driver was not urgent enough in her conversations with dispatch

By Teresa Masterson
|  Wednesday, Apr 14, 2010  |  Updated 12:32 PM EDT
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SEPTA: Protocol Was Followed

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RAW: SEPTA Dispatch Recordings About Unresponsive Passenger

A man died on a SEPTA bus Tuesday. Listen to the full conversation between the SEPTA bus driver and dispatch.

SEPTA: Protocol Was Followed

SEPTA says its staff followed all protocols when dealing with a man who passed away on a bus Sunday.
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SEPTA authorities say that while it's not uncommon for a person to die on one of their transportation vehicles, the bus driver should have been more urgent in her six calls to dispatch when she had an unresponsive passenger aboard.

"If she would have requested an ambulance, if she would have requested police, they would have been immediately dispatched," SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney said about 27-year-old driver Natika Manfra.

A SEPTA supervisor directed Manfra to continue her route after she reported an unresponsive elderly passenger who had urinated on himself early Sunday.

By the time the bus reached the end of its Market-Frankford Line Nite Owl bus route, the man, who was breathing at the beginning of the route, was dead.

Manfra and Transit Union Local 234 President Willie Brown are both outraged by the incident.

"It just boggles me that I was riding around and he was deceased and other passengers were getting on," Manfra told Metro.

"Once she stated that the individual was unresponsive, they would have to be brain dead not to consider that not to be a possible medical emergency," Brown said.

Manfra first called SEPTA control at about 4 a.m. Sunday when she noticed the man on her bus at 69th Street Terminal. She told her supervisor that the man was not reacting to her, had peed his pants and was drooling. Manfra was told to continue to pick up passengers.

Part of the conversations in which SEPTA says Manfra was not urgent enough follows: 

Driver: I have a passenger that's not responding to me...It looks as though he had peed on himself and he had drooled a lot. I can't get any actual response.

Control: ...Just come on down the street, the supervisor will pick you up on the line and give you some assistance.

Driver: OK, so just leave him on the bus and pickup passengers when I leave on 4:18?

Control: That's correct. I don't want to delay service. The supervisor will assist you on the line so we don't delay service for the passengers.

(Listen to all calls)

Leonard Sedden, 68, was pronounced dead from heart failure and a drug overdose at the Frankford Transportation Center 40 minutes after Manfra notified SEPTA of his state, according to Metro. SEPTA authorities confirmed the incident to NBC Philadelphia.

SEPTA officials say that correct protocol was followed in the incident.

"There was no indication whatsoever of a medical emergency," SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney told Metro. "What it appeared to be was an intoxicated person who had passed out."

"She followed the protocol," SEPTA spokesperson Richard Maloney said Tuesday.

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