SEPTA defends handling of dead passenger

    Transit officials in Philadelphia say they followed protocol when they continued to transport an unconscious man, who later died before getting to the end of the line. But the transit workers’ union says supervisors should have responded sooner to a driver’s calls for help.

    (Updated 4/14/10 12:18 p.m. We’ve added extended audio clips of the conversations between the SEPTA bus driver and her dispatcher discussing the unresponsive passenger)

    Transit officials in Philadelphia say they followed protocol when they continued to transport an unconscious man, who later died before getting to the end of the line. But the transit workers’ union says supervisors should have responded sooner to a driver’s calls for help. Whyy’s Susan Phillips reports.

    [audio:100413spsepta.mp3]

    Here’s Septa bus driver Natika Manfrey making her first call to a supervisor at about 4 in the morning on Sunday, before she left 69th Street station.

    Manfrey: “…hello this is Market Frankford line….I have a passenger that’s not responding to me, banging on the seat, or even moving his feet, it looks like he has peed on himself and he is drooling”…

    But instead of calling police, the supervisor told Manfrey to start the route to Frankford Transportation Center.

    Supervisor: “I’m not gonna be able to get a supervisor out there…ok just leave him on the bus and pick up passengers at 4:18?…that is correct we don’t want to delay passengers for the service.”

    By the time a supervisor did catch up with the bus at 15th and Market, he boarded the bus and found the passenger breathing, and told Manfrey to continue on her route.

    Here’s the final call by Manfrey to her supervisor once she reached Frankford about an hour after leaving 69th Street station.

    Manfrey: “Yes, septa police is here, he believes the passenger is dead, he’s starting whatever procedures he has.

    Supervisor: Did you say dead? yes, he believes the passenger is dead.”

    The passenger turned out to be 68-year-old Leonard Sedden, who died of an overdose and who’s last known address was St. John’s Hospice in center city.

    Extended audio of SEPTA radio transmissions Sunday, April 11, 2010.

    The following are recordings were provided to WHYY by SEPTA.

    412 a.m. 69th & Market Street. SEPTA bus driver Natika Manfrey informs dispatch that a passenger is unresponsive. She is told to start her route and meet up with a supervisor in Center City.

    [audio:100413SP412.mp3]

    4:41 a.m. 15th & Market Street. Dispatcher contacts SEPTA bus driver Natika Manfrey to see if the supervisor showed up. She tells him that a supervisor checked the passenger and he appeared to be breathing. She is told to continue on her route and SEPTA officials will check up on the passenger at the Frankford Terminal.

    [audio:100413SP441.mp3]

    5:16 a.m. Frankford Terminal. SEPTA bus driver Natika Manfrey ends her route and tells the dispatcher that she’s waiting for SEPTA officials.

    [audio:100413SP516.mp3]

    5:20 a.m. Frankford Terminal. SEPTA bus driver Natika Manfrey tells the dispatcher that SEPTA Police believe her passenger is dead.

    [audio:100413SP520.mp3]

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