A 65-year-old Devon man was killed Thursday afternoon by a falling tree limb as he sat on a bench beside the Radnor Trail in Radnor Township, Delaware County.
According to Police Superintendent William A. Colarulo, the 45-foot-long branch struck and fatally injured the victim about 3 p.m.
Hearing the limb splinter, a 17-year-old hiker tried to revive the man with CPR, Colarulo said. The man, whose identity was being withheld pending notification of family, was pronounced dead a short time later at Bryn Mawr Hospital.
The trail, which follows part of the bed of the former Philadelphia & Western trolley line between 69th Street and Strafford, is used by hikers and bikers by the hundreds. It starts at Radnor-Chester Road in Radnor and goes for 2.4 miles before ending at Sugartown Road in Strafford.
Lined with trees and brush, it is maintained by the township, which pruned many overhanging branches in early spring. There had been no previous serious incidents or accidents on the trail, Colarulo said.
He said the man was sitting on a trailside bench near the Radnor-Chester Road end when the branch fell.
By late afternoon, crews had removed the limb, which Colarulo said bore green leaves. Except for a helicopter hovering nearby, there was no sign that an accident had occurred.
The rough-hewn benches, made from half a tree trunk and cradled in two wooden end pieces, are used mostly by hikers taking a breather. But families sometimes picnic on them, and joggers use them for stretching.
"That's a great shame," said Dorie Friend, 79, of Villanova, when told about the falling limb. Friend is a historian associated with Swarthmore College. "It's beautiful along the trail today with the leaves waving. I hope he was thinking about that when he died."
The trolley line was founded in 1902 by American financier Jay Gould, who initially hoped to build an electric railway from Philadelphia to Parkesburg, 44 miles to the west, and from there across the country. But the line got no farther than Strafford.
The trolley operated at a loss until March 23, 1956, when the last trolley rolled into the Strafford Station. The huge concrete pillars that once supported the stations are still visible, and decorative signs have been posted along the trail to explain its history.
The Strafford P&W right-of-way sat abandoned from 1956 on, except for use as a dumping ground.
Radnor Township decided to convert the corridor to a bike and hiking trail, which opened in 2005 after unsucessful lawsuits from neighbors to block it.