By Pat Loeb and Diana Rocco
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The evening commute turned into an adventure for PATCO riders, who had to evacuate an eastbound train after it filled with smoke in a tunnel just before the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
About 700 passengers were stuck on a PATCO train during Monday evening’s rush hour.
“There was lots of smoke you could see and smell,” passenger Kaitlyn Delegowski said.
“We smelled something but we still got on the train and then soon enough as it left the cabin started filling with smoke,” passenger Andrew Ludewig said.
The train was headed to New Jersey and just about to cross the Benjamin Franklin Bridge when two cars filled with smoke.
“We were in the first car and when we left 8th and Market we heard a noise and then as we were going up the train it started smoking and smelling,” passenger Michelle Butbilas said.
Kim Mischinsky was feeling pretty good about catching the train out of Center City but before the train even got to the bridge, there was trouble.
“Started smelling like a chemical, smoke smell. We were on the third car and it got worse and worse and all of a sudden the whole car was filled up with smoke and we were slowing down as it was happening and then it stopped and it was sheer panic for everybody,” Mischinsky said.
The seven-car train left 8th and Market just after 5 p.m. Monday when PATCO says the train’s electric motor shorted out as the train was half inside the tunnel. PATCO says the short was weather-related.
“Particularly when you’ve got a lot of snow on the ground a lot of ice, we’ll short out. It was a little unusual this time was that the smoke got sucked into two of the cars,” Tim Ireland of the Delaware River Port Authority said.
Firefighters flooded the tunnel to evacuate hundreds, walking them down the tracks and underground to the out of service Franklin Square stop where some got on another train and others opted to call a ride.
The passengers sat in the dark, some for more than an hour, as they waited to be evacuated.
“We had to get off the back of the train. It took a long time to walk down the tunnel up to the platform at Franklin Square,” Ken McGill said.
I’m just glad to be out,” passenger Tammy said.
“It took us a long time to get evacuated from our car to the first car. And then once we did, we had to go down a ladder, up a ladder, through the tunnels and up through here. So just glad to be off the train,” passenger Megan Kowalski said.
This woman says she got stuck Monday morning when the train in front of her broke down in Camden.
“I was stuck in the train for 30 minutes this is just crazy,” she said.
Two people did have to be treated at the scene but no one was injured.
By 7:30 p.m., all passengers on the disabled train were transported by PATCO to New Jersey and regular eastbound service resumed.