A high-speed train barreled into a parked train at one of SEPTA's busiest terminals overnight, injuring more than 30 people and causing what one passenger described as a bloody scene.
SEPTA officials say the Norristown High Speed Line train 155 was arriving at the 69th Street Transportation Center on Market Street in Upper Darby around 12:15 a.m. Tuesday when it crashed into a train 148 rail car that was unoccupied and sitting in the terminal.
"I stood up to get off to get ready to get to my bus on time and smack, it hit the other trolley, parked," Ronnie, a passenger who asked us only to use his first name, told NBC10.
SEPTA officials initially said 42 people were injured in the crash. During a press conference at 5 p.m. however, Ruben Payan, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, said that while 42 people were on board the train, 33 people — including the conductor — were hurt in the crash. While four of the victims are in critical condition, all of the victims are expected to survive.
It's not clear how fast the train was traveling when the crash happened, but passengers described a violent collision. Upper Darby Mayor Thomas Micozzie said the train came into the station "hot."
"My face hit the wall, put a big hole in the wall and I went straight down and I blacked out," Ronnie said. "There was blood everywhere. The driver is all banged up and there was this one girl bleeding out of her face pretty bad."
Three of the victims were taken to the Lankenau Medical Center and the conductor was taken to the Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. He was treated and later released, according to SEPTA.
The other victims were taken to other area hospitals including Delaware County Memorial Hospital, Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital, Misericordia Community Hospital, Springfield Hospital and Taylor Hospital.
Ronnie claimed that prior to the crash, the train had twice overshot stops during the trip.
"I was waiting at Gulph Mills. The train came by, it blew past us about three or four train lengths, stopped, backed up, picked us up," Ronnie said. "The same thing happened at Bryn Mawr."
SEPTA officials have not confirmed the allegations. NTSB officials arrived at the terminal Tuesday around 7 a.m. to start an investigation. More officials will arrive Tuesday night.
"The NTSB has brought in an eight-member go team. Each team member is an expert in different fields," Payan said. "They will be collecting evidence in their specific disciplines which include mechanical operation, signal and train control, crashworthiness, emergency response and human performance."
Payan said that onboard video recordings from the two trains involved in the crash were downloaded and will be sent to the NTSB vehicle recorder lab in Washington, DC for further analysis.
"Throughout the next few days NTSB investigators will work on scene to gather the details of this accident," Payan said. "Our mission during this accident investigation is to understand not just what happened but why. Why it happened and to recommend changes to prevent it from occurring again."
This is the second major train incident at the 69th Street Terminal this year.
In February, an out-of-service Market-Frankford El train collided with two others on a loop track. The impact caused several cars to derail and tip to the side. Four people were hurt in that incident.
Micozzie said he's concerned about safety at the terminal. He plans to call U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, the Philadelphia Democrat, Tuesday and ask for help in improving track safety.
SEPTA spokeswoman Heather Redfern said the Norristown High-Speed Line uses Automatic Train Control, a safety system that's been deployed on rail lines nationwide for decades.
With ATC, a train operator will get an in-cab warning when they violate a speed limit. If they fail to slow the train within a few seconds, the system takes over.
Experts say ATC is an effective technology for preventing crashes, but Amtrak has said it's not as advanced as a newer technology called Positive Train Control (PTC).
PTC can halt a train when it fails to comply with a stop signal and prevent derailments at curves, the rail service wrote in the wake of the 2015 derailment of Amtrak 188 in Northeast Philadelphia.
The Amtrak line Train 188 was traveling on didn't have ATC activated when the derailment happened. PTC was not yet installed on the line. It's since been deployed.
In May, U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, a Republican, and Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Casey announced nearly $6 million in federal funding for SEPTA to improve regional rail — SEPTA's commuter train lines — including the enhancement of PTC on those lines.
Norristown High Speed Line service between 69th Street and Norristown resumed as regularly scheduled at 4:20 a.m. Tuesday. One of the tracks is not operational however so passengers should expect delays. Express service is also shut down for the day.