SEPTA officials may consider additional security options after an 11-year-old boy was killed when he decided to climb onto a parked train Saturday night in Germantown.
Jewels Angelo, of Albanus Street in Olney, was electrocuted by 11,000 volts when he grabbed an electrified mechanism atop a train about 6:55 p.m. at the Wayne Electric Shop, near Stenton Avenue and Berkley Street, a SEPTA spokesman said.
Jaime Tucker, Angelo's stepmother, said yesterday that her son and another boy, 12, who was a family friend wandered off Saturday night while the two families were at a nearby block party on Elwood Street.
"I don't think he would have wandered so far by himself," she said.
Tucker said the family reported him missing to police about 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
In the morning, Tucker went to the other boy's house to ask about her stepson but he wouldn't say what happened.
It took three trips to the house for the boy to tell the truth, she said.
"Whatever happened, even if he dared him, it was an accident," she said. "I don't hold [anything] against him. I do think he still knows more than what he's telling. I think he might have even seen what happened."
Jim Jordan, assistant general manager for public and operational safety for SEPTA, said at a news conference yesterday that Angelo had climbed onto the roof of a railcar and touched the live electrical system, which has more than 10 times the voltage of the average household electrical outlet.
The shop was closed at the time, but a break in the shop's electrical circuit showed investigators the time of Angelo's death, Jordan said.
The burns on Angelo's hands indicated that he had touched the system, which is connected to the charged wires above the train tracks, Jordan said. Two workers found Angelo's body on Sunday morning next to the railcar.
"There's nothing covering the wires; it's like a free-for-all," Tucker said after seeing the tracks her son had followed.
Jim Fox, chief operating officer for system safety, said electrocutions are rare.
"The last time something like this happened, a teenage boy decided to climb one of the structures and was electrocuted that way," Fox said. "That happened sometime in the last 20 years."
Jordan said that SEPTA was open to ideas about preventing similar incidents but that the best safety precaution is education, including Operation Lifesaver, a national program that gives presentations on railway safety to people who frequently come into contact with them.
"We try to educate people from kindergarten to college about how there is nothing safe about rail tracks or rail equipment," Jordan said. "The only safe way to be around tracks or around equipment is not to be there at all."
Tucker said her son might not have climbed the train if there had been more signs.
"I hold my child at fault because he shouldn't have been there, but, yes, I do hold SEPTA at fault," she said. "In the suburbs, they have gates up to 6 feet, but in the 'hood they don't care. In the low-income areas they don't care."
Locking up the trains at night doesn't make sense, Jordan said.
"It's just not practical to fence in 240 miles of train tracks," he said.