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Trainspotter

City official fell in subway and fights for life after botched rescue bid

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A city official is fighting for his life after transit workers apparently botched a rescue attempt when he fell onto the subway tracks, the Daily News has learned.

 

NYC Transit is investigating whether delays in shutting down the third rail resulted in a subway train running over Ronald Melichar at an upper Manhattan station Jan. 4.

 

Witnesses at the City College station saw Melichar on the tracks and begged the token booth clerk to shut off the power.

 

They said the clerk told them she did - but two minutes later a train rolled into the station and ran over Melichar, a top official at the Department of Small Business Services.

 

Officials are trying to determine whether protocol was followed and whether there was time to prevent the disaster. People on the platform, for example, weren't told of a switch in the station that temporarily deactivates the third rail.

 

"There is indeed an investigation into this incident by the Department of Subways," NYC Transit spokesman Charles Seaton said without elaboration. A report is expected in days.

 

Melichar's distraught sister, Nancy, flew in from Colorado and was at his hospital bedside Tuesday, where he was unconscious and in critical condition.

 

"Right now, we're caught up in his life-and-death situation," she said. "We hope he makes it."

 

She said she was unaware of allegations of negligence but wanted to learn what happened. "I think an investigation is in order," she said.

 

[float=right]amd_melichar.jpg[/float]Around 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 4, Melichar, 62, was at the City College stop on the No. (1) train at 137th St. and Broadway. His sister believes he was on his way to church.

 

At some point, he fell onto the tracks in the southbound lane, where he lay lengthwise between the tracks, rolling back and forth, witness Roberta Gold said.

 

"He was twitching, rolling up against the third rail," Gold told The News. She says she immediately ran to the token booth clerk and told her to shut down the power.

 

Gold said the clerk got on the phone and then told her she'd arranged to turn the power off. She and the others in the station waited for emergency medical technicians to show up.

 

To their horror, about two minutes later they saw a train heading into the station, Gold said. They waved frantically for the motorman to stop, but it was too late. The train rolled over Melichar.

 

The Fire Department was called at 7:38 a.m. Rescue teams were on the scene by 7:42 a.m. They found Melichar partially under the train, but alive.

 

Fire officials say the man was in critical condition with electrical burns and multiple fractures. At one point, he had a heart attack, records show.

 

By 8:08 a.m. the crew rushed Melichar to St. Luke's Hospital, where he remained in critical condition Tuesday. Doctors have amputated one of his legs.

 

Gold says she wants to know why the power wasn't quickly shut down after subway riders warned the clerk about the man on the tracks.

 

Transit officials would not say whether the clerk made the call or explain why the clerk didn't tell people on the platform they could shut down the power by hitting a little-known switch in the station.

 

They also would not explain why the motorman in the approaching train wasn't notified of a man on the tracks.

 

BY GREG B. SMITH and KERRY BURKE

DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

January 14th 2009

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wow always a problem at 137th street

 

dont u usally have to contact control before shutting off the power? I never knew there was a switch at a station to cut the 3rd rail

 

hope the guy gets well..

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Well this is an interesting story.

They needed to disconnect power, but you can't just disconnect power out of nowhere, and in addition, if the train was coming, the train would still have a lot of momentum as it slowed, and probably still would have trapped him.

 

Plus, a secret switch can't really be exposed to too many people...

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omg...shocking news.....I'm so sorry for this old man..:confused:

 

I just wonder why the booth clerk didn't ask sb. to switch the signal to red to stop the coming train, if he cannot do that by himself.

 

For the "secret handle", I doubt whether such a thing really exist.. and if they really shut down the power track, all trains within some distance should have stopped(?)...

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this is awful to hear and probably could have been handled better...yes there is an alarm box that can disable power to the third rail...however even if power is cut T/O's are told to coast to the next station if possible so that alone may not have prevented something bad from happening...what was needed was someone with a flashlight to flag down the train before it could reach him (could be done from the platform), or for someone to get on the radio and say there is a passenger on the tracks at 137 and all T/O's stop a car length out of the station...needless to say this guy is lucky to be alive and hopefully he will recover

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That situation should have been handled better, is the (1) train becoming the the most fatal subway line in the system? Oh man, that's not good. Getting back to topic, I wish that person a full and speedy recovery. Man, that is awful.

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omg...shocking news.....I'm so sorry for this old man..:confused:

 

I just wonder why the booth clerk didn't ask sb. to switch the signal to red to stop the coming train, if he cannot do that by himself.

 

For the "secret handle", I doubt whether such a thing really exist.. and if they really shut down the power track, all trains within some distance should have stopped(?)...

Yes there is a "secret handle-so to speak." There is a handle NEXT to a phone!You have to tell the person on the phone WHY yur turning off power and you give them yur info. and what not.IF you pull that handle and NOBODY gets on that phone,the supv thats waiting for you on the other end WILL put the power back on because he/she might think it's a prank because people WILL pull pranks once in a while!The clerk cannot do anything but notify the command center and they will handle it from there.I'm so sorry to hear about this...

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Wow that's terribly sad.

 

Wait, so there IS an emergency shutoff switch for the third rail at each station, am I understanding that?

 

If so, why didn't the (MTA) worker immediately kill the power when she was told there was someone on the tracks?

 

Bizarre.

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Wow that's terribly sad.

 

Wait, so there IS an emergency shutoff switch for the third rail at each station, am I understanding that?

 

If so, why didn't the (MTA) worker immediately kill the power when she was told there was someone on the tracks?

 

Bizarre.

It's in a place where the public is NOT allowed to go..hint,hint!B) I don't think a clerk's gonna RUN to that place right away!So much is going on so quickly that their instinct is to notify the command center IMMEDIATELY!!! They have this panic button that they push for emergencies.

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Why are we debating about a button to turn off power, when a person(s) should had jumped in and pulled the guy out.

 

 

*question* I've been thinking, is there enough clearance for a man to lay straight between the tracks for a train to pass over without touching you?

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Why are we debating about a button to turn off power, when a person(s) should had jumped in and pulled the guy out.

 

 

*question* I've been thinking, is there enough clearance for a man to lay straight between the tracks for a train to pass over without touching you?

Yes,as long as it's Type II or Type II modified track(and as long as you're not 500lb's). You'll find this type of track mostly underground.

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Wow that's terribly sad.

 

Wait, so there IS an emergency shutoff switch for the third rail at each station, am I understanding that?

 

If so, why didn't the (MTA) worker immediately kill the power when she was told there was someone on the tracks?

 

Bizarre.

 

The emergency alarm box is NOT located in the booth where the station agent is located. The agent would have to leave the booth to activate it. If there was no other agent in the booth at the time and the sole agent left said booth he, or she, would be disciplined. That would probably mean either suspension, demotion or termination of said employee. While some people would hail the person as a hero the (MTA) would not. Now think about how many of us posters want to eliminate the position completely to save our train or bus service. Although it took too long to coordinate the power shut-off, if there was nobody in the booth who makes the call in the first place? Cameras don't make phone calls!!!! The agent had to call the control center because the agent is not allowed to leave the booth. I just hope the passenger regains his health as much as possible.

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