Thursday, November 5, 2009

One Fire & One Death as Crippling Transit Strike Continues in Philadelphia

Almost a million Philadelphians were left stranded on Tuesday, when the Transport Workers Union pulled a surprise strike at 3 am, crippling the City of Brotherly Love.

Although it does not appear to be strike-related, earlier today, an inspector was killed when a southbound commuter train was switched to the northbound to go around a another train with equipment problems. This is the second incident in two days.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

The strike, which began Tuesday after labor-contract talks broke down, has idled subways, buses and trolleys in the nation's sixth most populous city. Regional commuter rails continue to operate because their workers are in a different union, but two accidents have slowed or halted service on these trains.

Early Wednesday morning, a fire believed to have been caused by an electrical or heating malfunction engulfed a train car in West Philadelphia. The passengers--more than usual amid the strike--had been evacuated, and no one was seriously injured, said Richard Maloney, spokesman for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, or Septa.

On Thursday morning, a southbound commuter train in North Philadelphia switched to the northbound tracks to get around a train with equipment problems, then struck a 34-year-old inspector walking on the tracks. The inspector, Kevin Sparks, was pronounced dead on the scene, authorities said. Both accidents, which Septa said were unrelated to the strike, disrupted service along the lines for hours.

The train's operator in Thursday's accident didn't appear to have violated any procedures, and rail inspectors are supposed to assume that trains could approach from either direction, Septa's Maloney said. The Federal Railroad Administration is investigating both incidents, said spokesman Mark Paustenbach.

Although this is only day three of the strike, there appears to be no end in sight. Meanwhile, TWU Local President Willie Brown declares he may be the most "hated man in Philadelphia."

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