A grim New York subway reality: Corpses sometimes kept in break rooms

FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2013 file photo, a police officer and medical examiner personnel carry a body out of the Times Square subway station in New York after witnesses told police that the man who died jumped into the path of an oncoming train. It's a largely overlooked but gory reality of the New York City subway system: When someone kills themselves by jumping in front of a train, police need to find a place to put the mutilated body until a medical examiner truck arrives. Sometimes, transit workers say, that place is their break room or bathrooms, and some say they have been traumatized by unexpectedly coming upon a stowed body.(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, FIle)

NEW YORK (AP) — It’s a largely overlooked but gory reality of the New York City subway system: When someone takes their life by jumping in front of a train, police need to find a place to put the mutilated body until a medical examiner truck arrives.

Sometimes, transit workers say, that place is their break room or bathrooms. And naturally, they don’t like it. Some say they have been traumatized by unexpectedly coming upon a stowed body.

“The subway isn’t supposed to be New York City’s temporary morgue,” Transit Workers Union International President John Samuelsen said.

In one of the latest cases Wednesday, the body of a man found on a Manhattan subway train — after possibly dying of natural causes — was bagged and stashed in an out-of-service employee bathroom.

Authorities had no immediate word on how long the man’s body was there. But station agents claim it can take hours before bodies are moved from employees-only areas, increasing the odds they’ll stumble upon them, said TWU Local 100 representative Derick Echevarria.

Workers have been “surprised and shocked by this,” Echevarria said. “These are places where people take breaks, eat food, store their clothes.”

The union has received about a dozen complaints in the past year, including some alleging workers were exposed to messy remains, union officials say. Local 100 raised the issue with the Metropolitan Transit Authority twice in the same period, they add, but the complaints go back years.

In the past, “people have complained about it and nothing was ever done” station agent Theresa Green told the Chief, a union newspaper. “I saw this on April 7, 2008 when someone committed suicide in (a Brooklyn station), and it still goes on because this is their procedure.”

The MTA and the New York Police Department doesn’t deny workers have occasionally encountered the body bags. But they deny suggestions that it’s the result of an increase in suicides in the subways or longer response times by the medical examiner’s office.

The annual number of deaths of all kinds in the subways have held steady — there were about 50 last year — in an era of record ridership. And authorities say the average medical examiner response times are actually down so far this year by a half hour compared to same period last year, to slightly under two hours.

Police protocols call for officers to bag bodies, remove them to an area away from public view, preferably a utility room, and keep watch until they’re removed from the premises. The process can take more time if the victim dies on the tracks because that requires Emergency Service Unit officers to respond.

The MTA referred questions about the process to City Hall, which said in a statement it had increased medical examiner funding by $11 million since 2014. That’s allowed the office to add 127 positions.

“The medical examiner and NYPD are committed to reducing our response times even further to ensure both the humane treatment of the deceased and the health of subway workers and straphangers,” it said.

NBC4i.com provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s