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Subway Deaths Haunt Those at Trains’ Controls

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Interesting article from the Times detailing how T/O's who were caught in a 12-9 cope with the aftermath. It must horrible to experience one, and some of the polices the TA has in place to deal with such situations...are interesting to say in the least.

 

 

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Subway Deaths Haunt Those at Trains’ Controls

By MATT FLEGENHEIMER

 

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Tracy Moore drove an R train that struck a man in 2005.

 

Late one December morning in 2005, Tracy Moore was pulling her R train into the Steinway Street station in Queens. It is a sloping stretch of track, undulating “like a roller coaster,” Ms. Moore said. She was traveling about 30 miles per hour.

 

There was a man, maybe 5-foot-3, well coifed in a white shirt and suit jacket. She noticed him immediately, but not in time. He jumped.

 

The next moment, the man’s contact with the electrified rail was all she would be able to imagine when she went to bed over the next six months. She said she was unable to sleep for more than two hours at a time.

 

“I was always seeing it, you know?” Ms. Moore, 45, from Staten Island, said. “I see him alive and....”

 

In the last month, the cases of two men who were pushed to their deaths on the tracks have focused attention on the subway system’s most harrowing outcome. But for the men and women who operate New York City’s trains, these episodes represent an occasion to induct two new people to a grim fraternity with hundreds of members.

 

With dozens of people jumping and falling to their deaths on the tracks every year, any of the five million passengers who ride the city’s subway every day can reasonably expect to be driven by someone who has seen, heard or even felt someone perish right in front of them.

 

Decades later, the operators say, the images are vivid. The slender fellow in the jacket and tie, bending his knees at the platform’s edge. The reveler stumbling on the tracks at dawn, wobbly in her evening best, unable to stagger away in time. An arm reaching up, hopefully, then disappearing in a flash.

 

“As cruel as it makes it sound, for the individual it’s over,” said Curtis Tate, a former operator whose train struck and killed a man in 1992. “It’s just beginning for the train operator.”

 

In 2012, 55 people died after being hit by subway trains in New York, an increase of eight deaths compared with 2011. This year has already begun on a grisly note. Around 5:20 a.m. on New Year’s Day, the police said, a woman believed to be in her 20s lay down on the tracks at West 34th Street and was killed by a northbound No. 2 train.

 

Train operators have come to learn certain rules of thumb. Expect about a death across the system per week, perhaps less in a good year. Prepare for more around the holidays. (Statistics do not support the idea that suicides go up at those times, but workers say they believe it to be true.) Operators who go five years without a “12-9” — transit code for a passenger under a train — should count themselves lucky. One operator, Kevin Harrington, 61, said he had recorded “10 or 11” since 1984, one fatal.

 

If their train kills a passenger, operators are now given three days off. If a passenger is struck but not killed, “it’s case by case,” said Jim Gannon, a spokesman for the Transport Workers Union. For near misses or crashes with only minor injuries, workers are expected back the next day.

 

Many workers involved in fatal hits can take months to return if they go on compensated leave while recovering from trauma or other psychological conditions. Some never return to their old jobs at all, seeking transfers to jobs as station agents or other off-track posts, or even retiring if they have already worked many years.

 

The Transport Workers Union said the operator at the helm of the train during the first shoving case last month — when Ki-Suck Han, 58, died beneath a Q train at 49th Street on Dec. 3 — had not yet returned to work. The operator on Dec. 27, when Sunando Sen, 46, was shoved in the path of a No. 7 train at the 40th Street-Lowery Street station, was back at work on Thursday, the union said.

 

Howard Rombom, a psychologist based on Long Island who specializes in fatal subway cases, said an initial hurdle for operators was recognizing they were not at fault. “The train operators understand that there is a possibility in their career that this is going to happen,” Dr. Rombom said. “It’s not an unusual occurrence that makes them special.”

 

Some, including Ms. Moore, have attended support groups for operators involved in deaths.

 

Many patients are also treated using desensitization therapy, Dr. Rombom said, particularly if they are unable to return to work quickly. He might first ask patients to enter the subway system, but not necessarily ride a train. Next, he might suggest that they try riding. Then, if the patients are comfortable, they can ride in the front of a train.

 

Often, some operators said, the trauma does not set in until after the initial procedural steps have been completed. An operator knows to place the train in an emergency stop. If the train is fully or partially in the station, passengers are allowed to get off. The operator reports the crash to a Metropolitan Transportation Authority command center, which removes power to the rail.

 

Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman for the authority, said operators were often asked to “observe the results of the impact” — the macabre scene on the track — so they could communicate with first responders about the passenger’s condition and begin helping investigators gather information after a death. They are also expected to submit urine tests for drugs or alcohol within two hours.

 

But at times, this timeline is upended by the operator’s psychological state. Mike Casella, 59, from Queens, said that after his G train struck and killed a man at Flushing Avenue 25 years ago, the shock of the accident caused him to lose all feeling beneath his waist. Mr. Casella was able to swing himself out of his cab and into a passenger seat, he said, before his conductor traveled from his perch four cars away to help. Mr. Casella was hospitalized for one day.

 

Others have endured more subtle effects: a slightly missed mark at the station where their crash occurred, where concentration can be elusive; a heightened aversion to teenage passengers who jokingly threaten to push friends from the platform; a keen eye for “platform matadors,” as they are known among operators — riders whose heads or limbs lurch above the tracks as the train approaches, only to be pulled away at the last second.

 

Ms. Moore said her sleeping condition compelled her to turn to sedatives like Ambien, despite a longstanding dislike of prescription drugs. She did not return to work for nearly a year. Less than two weeks after she did, she said, she was operating another R train, zipping through a tunnel in Queens at over 30 m.p.h. She asked a supervisor if she could slow down. “He said, ‘Ms. Moore, slow down if you want to slow down,’ ” she recalled.

 

Moments later, as she pulled the train around a curve, a track worker was looking up at her. He darted to safety just in time.

 

“If I wouldn’t have slowed down, he would have definitely been dead,” she said. “Maybe it was my inner sense. God knew I couldn’t stand another one of those things. I would have been in the loony bin.”

 

Wendy Ruderman contributed reporting.

 

Read More - http://www.nytimes.c...ml?ref=nyregion

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Well, different things haunt different people, but I completely understand what these drivers are going through and its so tragic to hear.

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Yup, all the 75 footers must depart, along with other short trains that have different stopping places. I notice in most other cities all the subway trains are of the same type and length, just replaced with newer versions of the same equipment.

 

As far as my operation history, I have not had a 12-9. But I have run the gamut of the other options, right behind one (the train behind me gets it), right in front of one (the train or two in front of me gets it) and beside one (a train on the adjacent track gets it).

 

As far as the doors go, the only way I can ever see operating with them in this system is to punch at every station (instead only at or preceding junctions). And I mean the T/O, not the C/R (as the C/R has two operating positions roughly five feet apart on most trains, aside for the fact that the T/O then would have to line the train up correctly every time). Its not just the cost of installation and maintenance, the union would also likely demand ALL train operators to now receive OPTO pay, as in this idea they are technically operating doors also. That triggers an automatic raise for 3500 or so operators, something TA is not willing to do.

Edited by TwoTimer
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I think it's time. We could have installed it for the (7)<7> Line Extension or the Second Avenue Subway (Q)(T), but the (MTA) opt not to. Why?

 

We should petition the (MTA) to install platform screen doors and Washington D.C. should foot the bill for it as a transportation improvement bill. There are just way too many transit systems without screen doors in the country and it is time that they are installed before more people get hurt.

Edited by Roadcruiser1

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There should be platform screen doors by now. I support the Platform Screen Doors campaign but our subway is not compatible for it yet. :(

 

 

It's possible for the IRT, but until the 75 foot B-division cars go, impossibru for BMT/IND

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It's scary to know that 12/9s are an expectation. I feel for those operators. There are multiple victims in those situations: the deceased...and the T/O.

 

RTOman, TwoTimer, and the rest of your colleagues, God be with you.

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I was wondering: At the end of the article, they mentioned that she almost hit a track worker. Obviously, track workers are trained to be alert for trains, but how often does a 12-9 involve a worker?

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I was wondering: At the end of the article, they mentioned that she almost hit a track worker. Obviously, track workers are trained to be alert for trains, but how often does a 12-9 involve a worker?

 

Very rare, but once is too many when you receive hours of training...thats why when two of them happened in a week a few years ago, changes had to be made. Edited by TwoTimer

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Very rare, but once is too many when you receive hours of training...thats why when two of them happened in a week a few years ago, changes had to be made.

 

Actually, it was 3 in a week. 2 were hit at Hoyt Street on the (G), one died. Another was killed at 59th st on the (1).

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The track workers should have direct communications with the T/O's operating on the line. That way they can have enough time to get out of the way....

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http://www.nycsubway...AQ:_Radio_Codes

 

N.Y.C.T.A. RADIO CODE SIGNAL SYSTEM R.T. TRAINS. DEPT.

12 - 1 EMERGENCY - CLEAR THE AIR

12 - 2 FIRE OR SMOKE (ON TRAIN - ROADBED)

12 - 3 FLOOD OR SERIOUS WATER CONDITION

12 - 5 STALLED TRAIN (POWER - TRAIN)

12 - 6 DERAILMENT

12 - 7 REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE (POLICE - AMBULANCE)

12 - 8 ARMED PASSENGER (TRAIN - ROADBED)

12 - 9 PASSENGER UNDER TRAIN

12 - 10 UNAUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ON TRACK - CATWALK

12 - 11 SERIOUS VANDALISM

12 - 12 DISORDERLY PASSENGERS

Edited by BrooklynIRT
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Excuse me for sounding wrong but trespasser fatalities are going to happen regardless of what you put up. It may slow down these fatalities but if a person mind is set on killing themselves by train it will happen. I'm a Amtrak engineer and I've seen many trespasser strikes and I myself had many close calls but thank God no contact. It's a part of being a motorman or engineer sad to say but these things happens.

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It's possible for the IRT, but until the 75 foot B-division cars go, impossibru for BMT/IND

 

MTA planned to do refurbishment for R68s/R68As...i dont know it is possible or not to change to doors positions for them based the body structure of R68/R68A

R46s are too old to do that....they must be gone :(

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Excuse me for sounding wrong but trespasser fatalities are going to happen regardless of what you put up. It may slow down these fatalities but if a person mind is set on killing themselves by train it will happen. I'm a Amtrak engineer and I've seen many trespasser strikes and I myself had many close calls but thank God no contact. It's a part of being a motorman or engineer sad to say but these things happens.

 

 

And with that, Engr08 drowned in a lake of questions regarding what it's like to be an Amtrak engineer.

Also, regarding that, while off topic, when I was fanning Amtrak around Thanksgiving, I literally saw a jeep carrying a minor, drive down the side of the Amtrak ROW, WHILE a train was coming. (They actually passed the train.) Oh well, i guess with a Jeep you can do that kind of stuff. :/

 

I know somebody who has a family member who was in the Vietnam war. He came back from that unscathed.He then worked as an engineer for NJ Transit. He got PTSD from that, and became extremely religious because of it. Shame, he made it through the war without getting it, but got it as an engineer....

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I know somebody who has a family member who was in the Vietnam war. He came back from that unscathed.He then worked as an engineer for NJ Transit. He got PTSD from that, and became extremely religious because of it. Shame, he made it through the war without getting it, but got it as an engineer....

 

Curious, what sort of role did he do over there? Ie: was it working on the machines or was he on the front lines in combat? Perhaps that could explain why it was more traumatic?

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Curious, what sort of role did he do over there? Ie: was it working on the machines or was he on the front lines in combat? Perhaps that could explain why it was more traumatic?

 

 

Never asked :/ I might be able to ask tough.

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There should be platform screen doors by now. I support the Platform Screen Doors campaign but our subway is not compatible for it yet. :(

 

I think it's time. We could have installed it for the (7)<7> Line Extension or the Second Avenue Subway (Q)(T), but the (MTA) opt not to. Why?

 

We should petition the (MTA) to install platform screen doors and Washington D.C. should foot the bill for it as a transportation improvement bill. There are just way too many transit systems without screen doors in the country and it is time that they are installed before more people get hurt.

 

It's possible for the IRT, but until the 75 foot B-division cars go, impossibru for BMT/IND

 

MTA planned to do refurbishment for R68s/R68As...i dont know it is possible or not to change to doors positions for them based the body structure of R68/R68A

R46s are too old to do that....they must be gone :(

 

 

Are you kidding me? Here's an article about the T/Os who suffer trauma after experiencing a 12-9, and people just use it as an opportunity to renew the call for platform screen-doors? SMH.

For the last time, we don't need those doors. What we need is common sense, as in people learning to stay away from the platform edge, especially when trains are entering and leaving the station.

Edited by R10 1989
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Are you kidding me? Here's an article about the T/Os who suffer trauma after experiencing a 12-9, and people just use it as an opportunity to renew the call for platform screen-doors? SMH.

For the last time, we don't need those doors. What we need is common sense, as in people learning to stay away from the platform edge, especially when trains are entering and leaving the station.

 

......

What makes you hate PSDs so much...?

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Are you kidding me? Here's an article about the T/Os who suffer trauma after experiencing a 12-9, and people just use it as an opportunity to renew the call for platform screen-doors? SMH.

For the last time, we don't need those doors. What we need is common sense, as in people learning to stay away from the platform edge, especially when trains are entering and leaving the station.

 

 

A fight or assault that ends up on the roadbed is unavoidable except avoiding the fight in the first place. The suicides are the main causes of 12-9's and those are instances where common sense has no bearing. Can more seats and/or benches be placed in stations to encourage sitting until the doors open... of course. But that also gives homes to the homeless, who will find their way to warmer stations with benches.

 

I'm sure a strictly enforced policy of fines if a customer is standing on the yellow warning strip will prevent some, but there is no silver bullet outside of changing the equipment (all trains) and adding platform doors that will make the system 12-9 proof. The reason I said all trains and not just R46/68/A is because all the 60 and 50.5' car classes storm doors are unlocked. There have been 12-9's where it occurred by people walking in between cars, or suicides where a person just took down the safety chains and jumped. Locking the doors isn't an option as there at the moment isn't a way to unlock the doors trainline automatically. That means new 60'/IRT equipment or modifing current equipment for that feature.

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