Woman critical after touching 'third rail'

This woman, shown in surveillance footage, was seriously injured when she fell and was shocked by the "third rail" of the track.
This woman, shown in surveillance footage, was seriously injured when she fell and was shocked by the "third rail" of the track.
Posted: May 01, 2014

A WOMAN WAS fighting for her life last night after tumbling onto the tracks of SEPTA's Broad Street Line.

That woman, a South Philly resident whose age and identity weren't available, remained in critical condition at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital last night after her right leg touched the "third rail," the electrified portion of the train track.

An estimated 600 volts coursed through her body during the incident, which happened at 1:18 p.m. at the line's Ellsworth-Federal stop, according to SEPTA Transit Police Chief Thomas Nestel.

Surveillance footage from the station shows the woman, who slipped past the station's cashier without paying, peering over the edge of the track, apparently looking for the next train. She inches closer to the platform's edge, and then suddenly steps off, falling to the track below.

"We're not sure if this was a medical issue or if she was under the influence," Nestel said. "It doesn't look like this was a conscious decision."

Quick thinking from bystanders, who rushed upstairs to alert the station's staff, helped save the woman's life, Nestel said.

"These concerned citizens did the right thing today," he said. "This is a tragic accident, and they may have saved someone's life."

Nestel also commended the quick response by SEPTA personnel, who were able to shut off the current to the track in less than three minutes, and the Fire Department crew, who arrived quickly and got the woman off the track about 15 minutes after her initial plunge.

In the end, he said, this incident is one that is, and should be, easily avoided.

"This is a safety issue, where a person ignored all of our warnings," Nestel said. "It goes back to something we say periodically: You have to be careful in the subway system."


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