Holmesburg actor loses leg in Center City hit and run


Michael Toner survived 12 years of Catholic school, the Vietnam War and worldly travels relatively unscathed, but, tragically, the same can’t be said of his nighttime stroll along Market Street on June 9.

The Holmesburg resident — a well-known regional actor specializing in classic Irish and Shakespearean theater — tried to cross Market near 11th Street in a rainstorm when a passing vehicle struck him, ran him over and left him there, critically wounded and alone. Doctors were forced to amputate Toner’s right leg as a result of his injuries.

Philadelphia police are trying to identify the motorist who fled, although evidence has been scarce, according to Capt. John Wilczynski of the Accident Investigation Division.

“We have nothing,” Wilczynski said hours after the accident. “We’re a little frustrated right now. … There’s no physical evidence left behind, no parts of the car were left behind.”

Police had no additional information to release as of Tuesday afternoon, according to a department spokeswoman.

A second pedestrian, who did not witness the crash, found the injured Toner in the street and summoned help at about 1 a.m. June 9. Emergency responders rushed the victim to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

Despite his condition, Toner spoke to an Inquirer reporter from his hospital room less than two days later. He reportedly said that he was struck at about 11 p.m. on June 8, but he remembers nothing after that.

In early 1999, at the age of 52, Toner spoke to the Northeast Times as he was about to embark on a production of Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan at the Wilma Theater. Toner reminisced about his old neighborhood around Frankford and Magee, growing up in a learned Irish-American home, attending St. Timothy’s grade school and graduating from Father Judge in 1964. He was drafted into military service and fought in Vietnam. Upon his return home, he earned a bachelor’s degree from La Salle then studied abroad, earning a master’s in Anglo-English literature and drama from University College of Dublin.

He also lived and worked in New York before meeting his wife, Joanne, and settling on Vista Street near Walker, not far from Edwin Forrest Elementary School, named for the prominent 19th-century Philadelphia native actor.

Though a secondary character in the aforementioned Wilma production, Toner is perhaps best known as an author and performer of one-man plays. At the time of the accident, he was preparing to star in David Simpson’s Crossing the Threshold into the House of Bach last Friday and Saturday at the University of Pennsylvania. But the Amaryllis Theater Company was forced to cancel the performances.

To report information about the hit-and-run, call Philadelphia police at 215–686-TIPS or text information to PPD TIP. ••