PETALUMA (KPIX 5) – A 5-year-old girl slipped and fell into the gap between the train and the platform at the downtown Petaluma SMART train station in early January.

Her mother, Petaluma resident Melissa Strange said, “It was terrifying.”

As the doors opened, officials say, the little girl got off before her mother, and instead of walking toward safety, she walked along the yellow strip and fell into the gap.

“Somebody screamed that somebody had fallen underneath the train. And once I heard her scream, it’s one of those things where you know your own children,” Strange said, describing the event that took place 10 days earlier.

A passenger immediately hit the emergency brake, which stopped the train from going forward. Then a conductor jumped down onto the tracks.

“The conductor went under the train and pulled her out,” Strange said. “And then handed her to me.”

KPIX 5 asked Strange, at that moment, what was going through her mind?

“A little bit of peace that I had my daughter back and I was never going to let her go,” she said.

Strange, who is a pediatrician, assessed that her daughter was a little banged up, but otherwise just fine.

We asked SMART spokesperson Jeanne Belding, how could this have happened?

“Well, we have the safety strip here so it’s a reminder for people not to straddle the train and when you’re exiting to be extra careful and walk on this side of the platform,” Belding said.

An internal investigation is underway.

Meanwhile, there are now extra markings in red paint to remind people to stay back from the gap.
We asked Belding to respond to Strange’s concern that the gap is just too large.

“Well, the gap is within all the requirements,” Belding said. “It meets all the safety standards. And in addition to that, we have level boarding. Right near the door of the train.”

Strange wants an outside agency to investigate and that changes be made.

“I think the train needs to stop service until they can fix that problem,” Strange said. “It’s the same as if a bridge has a problem. Don’t say there’s an issue with a bridge and then, ‘oh, we’re going to let people go across that bridge until it’s fixed. You shut it down, assess for safety, fix the problem and then get up and running again.”