Transit officials are crediting several quick-thinking SEPTA employees and riders with helping save a woman’s life Tuesday after she fell onto the subway tracks in South Philadelphia.
Investigators said the woman plunged onto the northbound track of the Broad Street Line subway shortly after 1:15 p.m. at Ellsworth-Federal Station.
The woman’s right leg came into contact with the track’s third rail, sending up to 600 volts of electricity surging through her body. She suffered severe burns and was hospitalized in serious condition at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
SEPTA surveillance cameras caught the entire incident on video. In footage shown to members of the media Tuesday afternoon, the woman, who appears to be unsteady on her feet, can be seen entering the platform area and walking over to the yellow warning track.
SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel said the woman seemed to then walk directly off the platform and down onto the track. “We don’t know if she was under the influence or has medical issues, but she didn’t look like she was very stable,” Nestel said.
In the video, riders can be seen immediately running upstairs to alert the SEPTA cashier as one woman sits next to the tracks and tries to calm the victim.
Transit officials said that, within two minutes, the cashier ran down to the tracks armed with a wooden-handled broom in the hopes she could move the victim away from the power source. It’s not known if her efforts were successful.
Track inspectors working in the area also responded after hearing the woman’s body coming into contact with the electrical current. They were on the scene within three minutes, according to SEPTA.
Both the inspectors and the cashier contacted the SEPTA control center, and a dispatcher shut off power to the track within three minutes of the woman’s fall.
Fire personnel arrived at the station shortly before 1:25 p.m. and carried the woman from the tracks about 10 minutes later. The victim’s age and identity are not being released, but officials said she was a South Philadelphia resident.
Service on the Broad Street Line subway was interrupted for about 45 minutes as the rescue occurred.
Nestel said the woman is lucky, as “not too many people live after coming into contact with the third rail.”
He commended both SEPTA employees and riders for acting quickly and for notifying the proper authorities instead of jumping down onto the tracks themselves. “Everything that should have occurred during a tragedy happened here,” Nestel said.
A review of surveillance footage revealed the woman who fell didn’t pay her fare before entering the subway station, according to Nestel. SEPTA hasn’t yet decided whether to bring charges.
“That’s something we will talk about,” Nestel said. “I’d hate to throw gasoline on a burning fire. Maybe next time, she’ll pay, and maybe next time, she’ll be more cautious around the trains.”