Bryn Mawr woman slips beneath train, survives near miss

An attorney for Delaware County says she was thrown beneath a moving SEPTA train on Monday when the train pulled out of the Eddystone station before she had fully disembarked.

Patricia Biswanger, 55, of Bryn Mawr, said two cars of the train passed over her as she lay in the gravel trainbed between the platform and the rails.

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Patricia Biswanger says she was getting off at Eddystone when the train began moving and she fell.

"It was terrifying. All I'm thinking is, 'what is it going to feel like when this train hits me? When is the pain going to start?'" Biswanger said Wednesday.

Biswanger called a friend, Francie Howat, the Eddystone borough manager, who notified local police. Biswanger was taken to Crozer-Chester Medical Center, where she was examined and released.

She said she had no apparent injuries, but was "feeling kind of banged up" and had scheduled an appointment with her own doctor.

Biswanger, a deputy solicitor for Delaware County, said her biggest concern after the incident was "what if this was happening to somebody even more vulnerable?"

"What if I was elderly, or what if I was carrying a baby?"

SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams said Regional Rail policies require conductors to make sure all passengers are safely off trains before the signal is given to an engineer to move the train.

"It is absolutely the conductor's responsibility and one of his most important duties to stand on the ground at platform level and watch passengers disembark," Williams said. "He signals the engineer when no passengers are getting on or off the train."

"So if this occurred as she said, it would have been the conductor's fault."

Williams said SEPTA officials are investigating the reported incident, and if the conductor is determined to be at fault, he or she would face discipline, including possible suspension from duty.

Biswanger, who said she has limited use of her arms because of a spinal cord stroke several years ago, said she was returning to Eddystone from Newark, Del., on a train that left Newark at 8:58 a.m. Monday.

SEPTA's daily Train 9220 departs Newark at 8:58 and arrives at Eddystone at 9:37, according to SEPTA schedules.

Biswanger said she was the only passenger getting off the train at Eddystone, and she said she did not see a conductor.

She said she was struggling with her suitcase, still one step from the ground, when she heard the double-beep signal for the engineer to proceed and the train started to move.

"I was sort of in mid-air. I couldn't go forward or back," she said. "I swung counter-clockwise and I ended up in the gravel next to the curb, with the train passing over me. I could see the steel wheels going past my head."

After the train passed, Biswanger rolled onto the platform, dazed and scared. She called Howat, who arrived quickly, as did a local police officer.

"I raced down there, and she was just sitting on the blacktop, crying," said Howat.

Howat said a second SEPTA train stopped at the station and a conductor came down to talk to Biswanger and apparently notified SEPTA police.

"A lot of time at these stations, if they don't see anybody waiting to board, they just kind of slow down," Howat said. "But it's a shame. There's got to be a better way."

Howat said she waited with Biswanger at the hospital until her son-in-law came to pick her up.

"Let's just thank God things turned out okay," Howat said.

Biswanger said she had not decided whether to sue SEPTA. She said she would wait to see whether she had any lasting injuries from her fall.

 


Contact staff writer Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com