Witnesses to Sunday’s fatal light-rail crash report a woman at the Mount Baker Station appeared to stumble and fall off the southbound passenger-boarding platform just as a train arrived, Seattle police say.
The victim, identified Monday by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office as Nicole Stephanie Lyons, 39, died of blunt-force injuries. Her death was ruled an accident.
The incident, which happened at 1:24 p.m. during busy summer train travel, is not being investigated as a homicide, police said. Trains were delayed two hours during Sunday’s response, which included an extrication by firefighters.
Sound Transit turned over the video footage to police for further investigation, transit spokesperson John Gallagher said. Besides cameras at the platforms, the trains contain in-cab videos and event recorders that are analyzed by transit safety administrators in post-crash investigations.
“All we know is for whatever reason, the woman was apparently stumbling as the train was slowing and pulling into the station,” Gallagher said.
This was the first train-pedestrian crash at the elevated Mount Baker Station since the line opened in 2009. However, on July 27, 2021, a 45-year-old man, who was wandering the platform, fell into the trackway and suffered a head injury. Two good Samaritans rescued him before the next train arrived, the transit investigation found.
There have been five incidents at other stations since 2009 where someone fell from platforms into the path of a moving train. Crashes are far more common at surface stations, where turning vehicles and people in crosswalks mix with railcars.
To reduce fall risks, Sound Transit recently replaced broken yellow tiles on the northbound passenger platform of Columbia City Station, to be followed by southbound work late this month and replacements in the Othello and Rainier Beach stations next year. Tiles haven’t been connected to Sunday’s fall.
In some countries, such as Japan and Korea, platform-edge doors are common to prevent riders from falling on the tracks. That technology is mostly nonexistent in the U.S., said Peter DeLeonardis, director of transit for Stanley Access Technologies, which installs safety doors on train stations. Train systems in the U.S. are not automated, making the use of doors more complicated and expensive.
“Here in the U.S., our rail infrastructure is somewhat antiquated and we don’t have that capability in all areas,” he said.
New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority will soon test doors at three stations — Times Square, Third Avenue and Sutphin Boulevard. The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation is adding doors to its 20-mile system that’s still under construction.
Stanley recently installed eight full-length doors at the Seattle Center Monorail’s Westlake station, replacing half-length doors as part of a refurbishment done in preparation for the Seattle Kraken’s first season. DeLeonardis said that was a relatively simple project because the train makes just two stops.
Toronto transit advocates are requesting platform doors after a passenger was shoved off a platform in a random attack; officials think the costs are near $1.35 billion to retrofit 75 subway stations. In Vancouver, B.C., TransLink balked at installing platform doors, where challenges include trying to match three different train models, according to the Daily Hive.