It may seem like getting kicked off a commuter train only happens in the movies, but a South Florida woman recently found out the hard way that it happens in real life.
Whether Josephine Savir, 63, of Hallandale and her son deserved to be removed by a conductor ahead of schedule from an Amtrak train traveling from New York City to Hollywood last month may ultimately be for a civil court judge to decide.
But the story shows how difficult traveling can be, especially at this time of year.
"We weren't even let off at a train stop, we were herded off like cattle in the middle of nowhere," Savir said. "The whole event was traumatic and humiliating."
Savir filed a complaint with Amtrak and hired an attorney. "They shouldn't be able to get away with this," she said.
Amtrak stands behind the train conductor and has so far refused to refund the $644 cost of the round-trip tickets for Savir and her son, Gregory Wise, 32, of North Lauderdale.
Savir and Wise caught the 3:15 p.m. train on Nov. 10 at Penn Station, planning to upgrade to a private cabin after Washington, D.C. But they ran into problems with the conductor, who ordered the train to make an unscheduled stop and had local police remove them. They were left at a rural crossroads in Ashland, Va., — 20 miles north of Richmond — at 10:10 p.m.
A police log shows that the call for help described "two drunk and disorderly passengers." It also says officers found Savir and Wise to be sober and cooperative.
"We did not have a drink, and we were always calm," Savir said.
Ashland officers helped Savir and Wise find a hotel. The next day, Amtrak honored the original tickets, and they arrived home 24 hours later than planned.
Amtrak declined to discuss a specific passenger, but company spokeswoman Christina Leeds said, "Amtrak may remove a passenger from the train at any inhabited place, as necessary under the circumstances." In a letter to Savir, Amtrak said an internal investigation revealed "your removal was warranted and that no compensation is due."
Savir's attorney, Mary A. Napier of Richmond, said Amtrak should reimburse Savir the cost of tickets, hotel stay, taxi ride and meals. "She also deserves damages. If Amtrak does not take responsibility, we will file a suit."
If you run into trouble while traveling for the holidays, experts recommend:
Start with the company or train system. Provide details, receipts and what you would like to be done.
Contact the Florida Department of Transportation at 850-414-4100 or visit
firstname.lastname@example.org, 954-356-4219 or 561-243-6686.