New Yorkers wrestle with survival on subway tracks
The horrific case of a man pushed to his death on the subway tracks has set New Yorkers abuzz about what they would do -- and how they would save themselves -- if caught in the same situation.
Safety experts say lying down in the trough between the tracks may work in some stations. If you're not obese, there might be a space between the train and the platform at some stops. And if all else fails, they seriously suggest trying to outrun the stopping train.
Those were only some of the ideas tossed around in the days after New Yorker Ki-Suck Han, 58, was shoved in front of an oncoming train Monday and killed as other riders watched. A homeless man is charged with second-degree murder in the case.
One reason Han's death got nationwide attention: Nobody came to his rescue. That's why safety experts say it's important for subway riders to be aware of ways to save themselves. While being pushed onto the tracks is rare, commuters were hit by trains 147 times in 2011, according to Metropolitan Transportation Authority figures. Fifty of those people died, though most were suicides.
Officially, the MTA says riders in danger on the tracks should seek help from an MTA employee, which may not be practical as a train bears down.
The agency said it doesn't have a blanket policy because not all the trains and stations are built exactly alike.
Jim Gannon, spokesman for the Transit Workers Union -- whose members scour every foot of the system daily -- said the first option, if possible, is to clamber back onto the platform or find a do-gooder strong enough to lift a person about 4 feet up without falling in.
If no one can pull you up, Gannon said, lying down in the space between the tracks -- the trough -- has been used successfully several times because "there is a good deal of clearance."
Looking to the side of the tracks is another option. Many station platforms have a lip, or a concave overhang, that's just deep enough to accommodate all but the largest of people.
Gannon also suggests stepping between the girders that separate tracks, if the station is built that way. But that involves stepping over the dreaded third rail, which carries more than enough electricity to kill a person.
The next option is to try to run in front of the train, which is slowing as it arrives.