Operator Charged In Trolley Crash

Posted: April 14, 1987

A former SEPTA trolley operator, whose body was found to contain traces of cocaine at the time his trolley rammed the rear of another SEPTA trolley in Haverford Township in January, was charged yesterday with 19 counts of recklessly endangering another person and one count of possession of cocaine, law enforcement authorities said.

The former operator, Alexander Holley, 26, of the 6100 block of Jefferson Street in the Overbrook section of Philadelphia, was arrested at his home by Delaware County detectives and Haverford Township police, authorities said.

Holley was awaiting arraignment early today at the Police Administration Building at Eighth and Race Streets in Center City.

SEPTA spokesman James Whitaker said he believed that the arrest was the first of a SEPTA employee who had tested positive for illegal-drug use at the time of a SEPTA accident. He would not confirm the operator's identity.

William H. Ryan Jr., Delaware County first assistant district attorney, said test results showed that Holley had "enough cocaine in his system at the time of the accident that he was unable to safely operate the train."

Ryan said the charge of possession was brought because Holley "had it in his system."

Seventeen people were injured in the 8:30 p.m. accident Jan. 26, which occurred just north of the Ardmore Avenue Station on the Route 100 Norristown High-Speed Line.

Shortly after the accident, according to SEPTA officials, evidence of cocaine and marijuana was found through tests of the urine of the operator, whose northbound trolley went through a yellow caution signal before ramming the rear of another northbound trolley. The operator was later fired, SEPTA officials said.

Ryan said tests showed that Holley had "ingested cocaine sometime during his shift at work."

The operator of the rammed trolley tested positive for marijuana use, according to SEPTA officials, but Ryan said the operator was not arrested

because he "did not appear to be under the influence." The substance detected in his urine could have been ingested days before the accident, Ryan said.

According to a police affidavit of probable cause, Holley said he was operating a trolley on approach to the Ardmore Avenue Station when he noticed a yellow caution light. According to the affidavit, Holley said that although he saw the light - which is a warning to drivers to reduce speed to 10 m.p.h. - he ignored it and "proceeded at approximately 30 to 35 m.p.h."

Holley told authorities that as he exited from the station, he saw a red light and "gave the brake all I had," according to the affidavit. But he was unable to stop the trolley, and it rammed a trolley that was stopped on the tracks because its path was blocked by a disabled maintenance car, the affidavit stated.

According to the affidavit, a SEPTA supervisor accompanied Holley to Hahnemann University Hospital after the accident. The supervisor said Holley ''appeared to be acting very strange, moving his body erratically," the affidavit stated. The supervisor said Holley told him that he was "really flying," according to the affidavit.

Ryan said Holley was charged with 19 counts of recklessly endangering another person, because 17 passengers were injured in the accident and two SEPTA employees working on the tracks were placed at risk. The charge of recklessly endangering carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison on each count, Ryan said, and the cocaine-possession charge carries a maximum term of one year in prison.

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