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30 years ago, man stole a SEPTA bus and took it on a wild ride


Thirty years in the past in the present day, a man jumped behind the wheel of a operating SEPTA bus and took it on a joyride, leaving a path of destruction and mayhem in his wake. The headline was: 

• One stolen bus.

• Two states. 4 counties. Seven municipalities.

• At the very least 15 individuals injured.

• At the very least 15 automobiles broken or destroyed.

• One state trooper struck and injured.

• One shotgun fired.

• A mangled intersection.

• A fortuitous missed flip.

• An arrest and 16 fees.

This is the wild story from newspaper accounts of the day – together with a report by my Montgomery Newspapers colleague Nicole Levicoff – and my very own eyewitness account from the grisly scene.


Glen Alton Barhight of Croydon, Bucks County, 38 years previous on the time, entered an open Ro, motor-running SEPTA bus at Frankford depot at Frankford Avenue and Bridge Road in Northeast Philadelphia round 6:30 a.m. on January three, 1989, and drove it off the lot.

A man matching Barhight’s description was thrown off an El practice on the depot about 40 minutes earlier than the bus was stolen, officers stated.

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Described as dazed and confused, the man refused to go away the practice when it reached the final cease on the road. SEPTA police escorted him off the practice.

That Market-Frankford Line practice had originated on the 69th Road Terminal in Higher Darby, close to the place one other SEPTA bus was reported simply three days earlier.

As soon as behind the wheel, Barhight crashed the Route three bus into about a dozen parked automobiles on the depot earlier than he was ultimately noticed at about 7:15 a.m. because the bus ready to cross the Calhoun Road Bridge into Trenton. Officers tried to detain him due to car peak restrictions on the bridge, however Barhite continued over the span, hanging overhead indicators and damaging the roof of the bus.

The bus rotated and headed again into Bucks County by way of the Route 1 bridge over the Delaware River. Slamming by way of a barricade, Barhight drove south on the freeway.

A roadblock at Route 1 and Road Street in Bensalem was amongst a number of makes an attempt made by regulation enforcement officers to halt the damaging spree. At one level, when the bus obtained caught up in visitors, Middletown Township police Officer LeRoy Alexander tried to pry open the rear bus doorways. However visitors cleared and Barhight hit the fuel, pinning the officer between the bus and a police automotive. (Alexander can be taken to the hospital for remedy of accidents.)

01032019_1989busjoyride2_BM01032019_1989busjoyride2_BMPhotograph courtesy/Bob McGovern

A stolen SEPTA bus crashed into a tree at a enterprise alongside Huntingdon Pike in Bethayres, Decrease Moreland Township, on January three, 1989. Police chased the bus by means of a number of municipalities.


Moments later, the Pennsylvania State Police joined the chase, because the bus continued southbound on Roosevelt Boulevard again into the Higher Northeast. At Comly Street, close to the previous Nabisco plant, a state police car was set as much as cease Barhight.

Because the bus bounded towards his place, a trooper fired a shotgun at Barhight, who reportedly suffered a grazing wound to the top however nonetheless stored his foot planted firmly on the fuel. The bus motored on after plowing via two patrol automobiles.

At Haldeman Avenue, the bus hit a car earlier than making a proper flip onto Purple Lion Street. Heading west, Barhight drove by means of the Bustleton part of Philadelphia earlier than inflicting one other accident at Excessive Street in Decrease Moreland, Montgomery County.

Barhight wasn’t completed, and the worst of the destruction and injury was nonetheless to return.

Nonetheless headed west on Purple Lion, the bus crossed railroad tracks alongside SEPTA’s West Trenton Regional Rail line, earlier than persevering with down the hill towards Philmont Avenue, overlaying the space of about two soccer fields at a excessive fee of velocity earlier than smashing by way of the busy intersection.

The bus slammed 9 automobiles, creating piles of wreckage and injuring greater than a dozen motorists, some critically.


Undeterred, Barhight sped up the hill, previous Decrease Moreland Excessive Faculty on his proper and towards the township police constructing on his left. Shortly, the bus closed in on busy Huntingdon Pike in Bethayres, the place Purple Lion got here to a dead-end.

Barhight determined to swing the bus proper, turning north onto Huntingdon Pike, however by no means acquired there. The legal guidelines of physics caught up with him, the rushing bus pressured almost straight forward, throughout the intersection and into a giant elm tree in entrance of the Huntingdon Valley Cheese Store at 20 Fetters Mill Sq.. The tree fell on the store, although additional accidents have been prevented.

″Thank God for that tree,″ Richard Campbell, who was sleeping in a second-floor condo above a boutique when the bus hit outdoors, would inform the Related Press.

Chased by police via 5 municipalities, Barhight was lastly apprehended on the scene.

The time was about 7:45 a.m. The joyride was over about an hour after it had begun.

Extremely, nobody was killed.


My mom stated to rise up.

I used to be nonetheless in mattress, having labored late the night time earlier than as a reporter and assistant editor to assist put together the Right now’s Spirit weekly newspaper in Hatboro for its common Wednesday publication.

You are lacking all of the sirens, she stated, as I attempted to clear my head and make sense of her phrases. One thing massive goes on and you must go examine, she advised. All of the sudden, I might hear the cacophony past the home windows of our Decrease Moreland residence. (It wasn’t the final time my mom would alert me to breaking information and ship me on my approach.)

I jumped up and dressed shortly, grabbing my Nikon EM digital camera and a coat earlier than operating out the door. No matter was occurring was outdoors the Spirit protection space, however I knew my colleagues on the Occasions Chronicle in Jenkintown would have an interest.

I might hear sirens to the south. I pulled out and headed in that course on Huntingdon Pike, which bordered my subdivision. I drove about a mile-and-a-half down the Pike in simply a jiffy, earlier than being pressured to go away the automotive alongside the aspect of the street and stroll towards the ever-louder sirens.

01032019_1989busjoyride3_BM01032019_1989busjoyride3_BMPhotograph courtesy/Bob McGovern

The twisted metal frames of two automobiles relaxation in a pile of particles on Purple Lion Street, simply east of Philmont Avenue, down the street from the place the stolen SEPTA bus crashed into a tree, on January three, 1989.


I noticed the bus first, its tail finish nonetheless jutting out into Huntingdon Pike, however had no quick concept of the lengthy path of destruction and damage it had left in its wake. Turning to the east, nevertheless, I might see down Purple Lion towards Philmont. There was a pile of wrecked automobiles within the roadway.

Walked down the hill, I took pictures of the aftermath. The scene resembled a warfare zone, or a minimum of ones I had seen on the night information. 9 automobiles – some with their metallic twisted and crunched like an accordion – littered the intersection round Philmont Avenue. Damaged glass and auto elements have been in all places. Tires have been flattened. Cops labored the scene as some victims lie on the bottom.

Bystanders – or maybe motorists whose day by day commute was disrupted by the rushing bus barging into the signaled intersection – stood round, many wanting as dazed as I felt.

There was a pall over the intersection. I had by no means seen nor skilled something like it, and I sensed no one standing there among the many wreckage and injured on Purple Lion Street had both.

″It was like one thing from a horror film,″ Mary Seashore, who came across wrecked automobiles on her solution to work, informed the AP. Individuals have been strolling round dazed, and others lie on the pavement, she stated.


Almost all the 15 victims have been handled at close by Holy Redeemer Hospital, the place 4 have been admitted and eight have been handled and launched. A number of had a number of bone fractures. One other man was admitted with hip and leg fractures to Abington Memorial Hospital, which additionally acquired Barhight, who needed to be minimize out of the bus by emergency personnel. (He was hospitalized underneath guard.)

A 47-year-old Trevose lady was injured so badly she needed to be flown by Medevac helicopter to Hahnemann Hospital in Middle Metropolis Philadelphia. It was later reported that she was paralyzed within the  crashes at Purple Lion and Philmont.

Barhight was arraigned on the hospital on $100,000 money bail, dealing with fees that included easy and aggravated assault, felony mischief, possession of stolen property and unauthorized use of an auto in a number of counties.

Frank Amabile, chief of police in Decrease Moreland, informed the media that Barhight had prior arrest and convictions on his document, however he wouldn’t reveal the character of these fees.


At a Might 1990 trial in Montgomery County Courtroom, Decide Gerald Corso rejected a plea of madness, as an alternative discovering Barhight responsible however mentally ailing, the Doylestown Intelligencer reported.

Actually, Barhight had a lengthy historical past of psychological sickness and was a recognized continual schizophrenic.

A number of of Barhight’s victims would finally sue SEPTA, alleging the transit company was negligent within the operation of its motor automobiles. The lawsuits can be dismissed.

However the unimaginable case would take one other wild flip.

The Intelligencer reported:

Examined 10 days after the incident, Barhight “had no appreciation for his acts … because of the magnitude of his mental illness,” Dr. Arthur B. Boxer, a psychiatrist, concluded.

Barhight informed Boxer and two different psychological well being professionals that he took the bus to flee from Linda Lovelace, the star of the X-rated movie “Deep Throat,” who he believed had been chasing him across the metropolis for days.

Miss Lovelace, based on Barhight, was sporting an digital belt that allowed her to regulate him.