Contact: Andrew Busch Press Officer

SEPTA Continues Investigation Into Regional Rail Car Fire
Quick Thinking By Crew, Passengers & Others Credited For Safe Resolution PHILADELPHIA, PA (November 4, 2009) – SEPTA continues working with the Philadelphia Fire Department and various local, state and federal authorities on an investigation into a fire aboard an R5 Paoli train car in West Philadelphia on Wednesday, November 4, 2009. The fire broke out at about 6:50 a.m. aboard the lead car of the four-car train approximately one mile east of SEPTA’s Overbrook Station. Minutes before that, the crew reported a burning odor coming from the lead car. Per standard operating procedure, all passengers on the lead car were evacuated into the three other cars on the train, and the train was to continue to 30th Street Station and then taken out of service. The engineer then reported heavy smoke aboard the train, and a full evacuation was immediately ordered. Within minutes of the safe evacuation of all passengers and the train crew, the lead car was fully engulfed in flames. A nearby Regional Rail train adjacent to the one on fire was also safely evacuated. None of the estimated 1,000 passengers evacuated from these two trains required hospitalization. One was assisted at the scene by emergency medical personnel. The three SEPTA crew members were taken to a hospital for observation, but were not injured. James Jordan, SEPTA’s Assistant General Manager for Public and Operational Safety, said the fire was most likely related to the electrical or heating system on the train. SEPTA officials say there is no indication the fire was intentionally set – and the incident is in no way connected to the current strike by the Transport Workers Union Local 234 involving SEPTA City Transit Division workers. “It is an accidental fire,” Jordan said. Jordan credited quick-thinking by the SEPTA crew – and passengers – for the safe resolution to this incident. He also praised the quick and effective response by the Philadelphia Fire Department. Firefighters arrived on the scene within 20 minutes of the flames breaking out, and had the fire under control just 15 minutes later. SEPTA is also grateful for assistance from Amtrak, which acted immediately to shut down electrical power – a crucial part of securing the scene. The Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management also came to SEPTA’s aide, making six school buses available to transport stranded passengers. (Continued)

-2SEPTA also wishes to recognize the patience of all passengers impacted by this incident. In addition to those who had to be evacuated, several thousand more experienced delays of up to two hours on trains stopped by the fire. SEPTA will make a full, public report after the fire investigation is complete. The train car was destroyed by the flames, and has been secured at a SEPTA facility for examination. The train car involved is one of about 50 in SEPTA’s Regional Rail fleet that dates back approximately 40 years. All meet standards for fire safety, and the same types of cars are used by other public transit agencies throughout the country. This incident also marks the first time a SEPTA train has caught fire and become engulfed in flames. However, if the findings of the investigation uncover a problem, SEPTA will take all necessary action to ensure the safety of customers. SEPTA is updating its Regional Rail fleet in the coming years, with the purchase of new, stateof-the-art train cars. For more information on SEPTA, visit

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