Sunday, July 18, 2004


A 77-year-old Bucks County man became the fourth fatality on the Regional Rail system in the past two months.
According to the Bucks County Courier-Times of Levittown, Donald Smith, 77, of the Fairless Hills district of Falls Township, Bucks County, was struck and killed by SEPTA #778 (R7 Trenton to Chestnut Hill East)  at 10:43pm, shortly after the train departed from Trenton station.
It was not clear how fast the train had been traveling because the authority's accident report was not finished as of Friday, said SEPTA spokeswoman Sylvana Hoyos.

According to Amtrak spokesman Dan Stessel, the SEPTA engineer apparently noticed Smith on the tracks and sounded the horn, but to no avail. The engineer placed the train into emergency braking mode - meaning air was flushed from the braking system so the train could brake hard and quickly, Stessel said.

"You're basically slamming on the brakes of the train," Stessel said. "It's what you have to do."

Campbell said he couldn't explain why Smith was on the track. Amtrak's authorized speed through the area is 100 miles per hour, and the four sets of tracks are either fenced off or posted "no trespassing."

The coroner, however, said that Smith did have some history of dementia and had some hearing problems.

"It was a terrible accident," Campbell said.

No one aboard the SEPTA train was hurt. The few passengers were transferred to another train, and the two southbound tracks were closed so workers could comb the accident scene. Trains ran at 15 miles an hour on the remaining two tracks.

Three SEPTA trains were delayed for 3 to 18 minutes and five were delayed 10 to 17 minutes during the investigation.
The train that struck Smith was released at 1:40 a.m. Friday and all tracks were opened shortly after 3 a.m.

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