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July 28, 2023

Runaway SEPTA trolley crashes into historic building in Southwest Philly

Three people were injured when the vehicle derailed at Island and Woodland avenues and struck the Blue Bell Tavern and an SUV, officials say

An trolley rolled out of a SEPTA depot and then derailed in Southwest Philly late Thursday night, crashing into an SUV and a historic building that predates the Revolutionary War. Three people were injured in the crash, which was captured by surveillance video.

The out-of-service trolley traveled about a half mile from the Elmwood Depot, a SEPTA service area, before crashing at Island and Woodland avenues around 10:45 p.m., 6ABC reported. The trolley had a mechanic on board, but no one was at its controls, officials said.

The mechanic was taken to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center to be treated for a non-life-threatening injury. Two people who were in the SUV also were taken to the hospital with injuries, FOX29 reported. 

The trolley crashed into the Blue Bell Tavern, which was built in 1766 and was the location of a battle during the American Revolution in 1777, according to the Darby Creek Valley Association. It has been on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places since 1958.

The woman who lived there called 911 but was not injured by the crash, officials said. 

The crash, shown below, was the fifth involving a SEPTA vehicle within seven days. 

"I've been (at) SEPTA 33 years, and I spent a good portion of my career working on these trolleys, and I cannot recall an incident like this," SEPTA Chief Operating Officer Scott Sauer told 6ABC.

Last Friday, two SEPTA buses traveling in the same direction along Roosevelt Boulevard crashed into each other. A 72-year-old passenger on one of the buses died. Nineteen other people were injured. 

On Sunday, a bus in Fishtown crashed into a pole, injuring four people. On Monday, two trolleys collided near Lansdowne Avenue and Garrett Road in Upper Darby, injuring seven people. And on Tuesday, a SEPTA bus jumped a curb and crashed into a Center City building at 15th and Walnut streets. Only the driver sustained injuries.

Blue Bell TavernStreet View/Google Maps

The Blue Bell Tavern, shown in April, was damaged Thursday night by an out-of-service SEPTA trolley that derailed. The building in Southwest Philly was constructed in 1766 and was the site of a battle in the American Revolution.

There have been nine crashes involving SEPTA vehicles this year, according to data from the transit authority. There were six in 2022, five in 2021 and nine in 2020. 

"To have one crash in one day is a concern, so this is very concerning to us," Ron Keele, SEPTA's chief safety officer told NBC10. "We're looking at all of our rules and regulations. We're doing what we call a safety stand down. We're going out talking to all the employees about being safe. We're reiterating all the safety rules and operations rules we have in place."

After Tuesday's crash in Center City, SEPTA said it would provide its employees additional safety training.

"This is something that we do twice a year," Keele told KYW. "But in this situation, we've mobilized staff this week to talk about these specific accidents."