PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The family of a SEPTA worker who died due to COVID-19 is sharing the heart-wrenching story of their loved one’s passing. And how the mechanic’s wife and son were left behind infected with the virus and with no health insurance.
SEPTA’s staff has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic with over 350 confirmed employee cases. While the majority of those employees have recovered and returned to duty, families of those who have to say the transit agency has left them struggling.
After 32 years of wedded bliss, Brenda Smith-Nixon struggled through her husband’s last moments.
“It just happened so quickly,” an emotional Smith-Nixon said. “We didn’t find out he had COVID until March 30.”
Eleven days earlier, Ted Nixon returned home from work feeling ill. The family thought it was the flu. He was mostly lethargic.
On the day he died, he’d just had breakfast when things suddenly turned.
“By the time we took him up the steps, he just fell back on us. We did get him upstairs to the bed and … he looked at us and he was gone,” Smith-Nixon said while wiping away tears.
Two weeks after the SEPTA mechanic passed away, the family’s health insurance was dropped. At the same time, Smith-Nixon and their son, Eric, found they had tested positive for COVID-19.
“I do think SEPTA owes the families something, especially for my husband — he was the first one. And especially if they knew someone in the depot had COVID, they should have said something,” Smith-Nixon said.
Seven SEPTA employees have died from the coronavirus. Their families are subjected to a $40,000 accidental death insurance.
The workers’ union has been pushing for a $500,000 death benefit, which other states have incorporated.
SEPTA denied the request.
“Even though you have guidelines, SEPTA has a tendency to pick and choose what they want to apply or they come up and make their own rules,” said TWU Local 234 President Willie Brown.
In the meantime, Smith-Nixon has secured some insurance for her 22-year-old daughter who has special needs and suffers from seizures.
“Whatever benefits the family had, that should be continued. I think it’s unfair to give someone two weeks, then say you’re dropped from,” Smith-Nixon said. “You need insurance.”