SOUTH SALT LAKE -- A woman who appeared to be running to catch a northbound TRAX train was hit by the train and killed Wednesday morning.

The woman, who remained unidentified and pinned beneath the train for several hours after the 7:48 a.m. accident near the Meadowbrook Station, was thought to have died instantly, South Salt Lake Assistant Police Chief Beau Babka said. The Meadowbrook station is at 188 W. 3900 South.Train 1022B, which was probably moving at about 22 mph at the time of impact, stopped about 50 yards from where it struck the woman. A team of firefighters, police detectives and Utah Transportation Authority operations workers planned to hydraulically lift the train to free the woman's body, Babka said.

The accident marks the first fatality for TRAX since trains began test runs last summer, and the first accident involving a pedestrian. At least eight other accidents have involved automobiles. In the most serious of those, a motorist was seriously injured.

TRAX has also had a derailment. Late last month, 22 people were injured when the third car on a three-car train came off the tracks and slammed into a wire-support pole. UTA determined a loose bolt on a directional switch caused the problem but is still investigating the incident.

Betty Langeberg saw Wednesday's fatal accident from the platform where she was waiting for a train.

"The lady was coming from the parking lot. She ran across the tracks. The TRAX driver was blowing his horn waving his arms, ringing his bell," Langeberg said moments after the accident. "He ran right over her."

Other witnesses said the train came to a jerking stop, throwing passengers against each other inside the train.

"It sounded like rocks hitting the train, and then the driver hit the brakes and hit them hard," said Curtis Newman, a nurse and attorney who rides the train daily from 9000 South to downtown Salt Lake City. "Then we just sat there. There was no announcement. For a long time we didn't know what had happened."

Federal statistics show light-rail systems have far fewer accidents and fatalities per passenger than public bus systems.

In 1997, the last complete year for which data are available from the Federal Transit Administration, there were 86 accidents and 0.29 fatalities per 100,000 passengers on the nation's light-rail lines. For the same year, there were 309 fatalities and 1.157 fatalities per 100,000 passengers on the nation's public bus systems.

UTA drew praise from the American Public Transit Association last fall for its proactive efforts to make Utahns aware of light-rail safety issues.

The agency chose to be fairly aggressive in its promotion of rail safety in part because of what it learned from other transit agencies. UTA, however, was criticized by some for its methods -- in particular, a promotional ad with a grisly description of what could happen if a careless person gets in the way of a TRAX train.

UTA spokeswoman Coralie Alder said the agency will review the accident and determine whether changes should be made to UTA's light-rail safety program. The train operator, who was badly shaken after the accident, will be placed on paid administrative leave and will receive counseling, she said.

"We've done our best to make this a safe system and educate the public," Alder said, adding that the incident should serve as a reminder "to pay attention, look for trains in both directions and when you're near TRAX just always be aware."

Twice in the past decade, UTA has been recognized as the safest transit system of its size in the country.

Babka said an initial evaluation by police indicates that UTA probably could not have prevented the accident.

Crossing gates had dropped across 3900 South to prevent vehicle traffic. The train operator was sounding the horn, as is required at all road crossings, and the pedestrian walkway is marked with a yellow warning sign advising those on foot to look in both directions for approaching trains.

"Obviously this probably didn't have to happen," Babka said. "It's a very simplistic type of safety situation. You have a moving train that weighs thousands and thousands of pounds. You just don't make bad choices when you know you are not going to win."

But the accident did not come as a surprise to light-rail opponents.

Drew Chamberlain, a South Jordan resident who has led the local opposition to light-rail under the umbrella of Citizens Against Light Rail, predicted before TRAX opened that it would claim the lives of between three to five people each year.

Chamberlain declined comment Wednesday, saying only that his group has suggested "for literally years now" ways in which UTA could improve light-rail safety.

He said the group may make recommendations to UTA after it studies the circumstances of the accident.

Nationally, light rail has been responsible for dozens of deaths. The majority of those killed have been pedestrians.

Dallas' DART system, which opened the first leg of a 20-mile route in June 1996, operated for 31 months without a fatality until two people -- a jaywalking boy and a woman who simply walked in front of an oncoming train -- were killed early last year.

Fifty-three people -- 31 pedestrians and 22 automobile occupants -- have been killed on Los Angeles' Blue Line since it opened in July 1990.

Portland's 18-mile west-side MAX was blamed for five fatalities in the first 15 months of service that began in September 1998.

Denver's 5.3-mile system, which operates on downtown streets, was responsible for just one fatality in its first five-plus years of service.

TRAX officials rerouted trains after the accident, moving both northbound and southbound trains along the southbound rails through the area. Buses were also brought to transport some passengers.