In his 30 years working for the Long Island Rail Road, Steven Capobianco of Port Washington has seen and heard of lots of lost travelers on the vast system — and of many public servants and Good Samaritans who help them get home.
“Sometimes people wander in, and you keep an eye on them,” he said. “They’re mostly local folks.”
But on Friday, he helped a woman who was some 900 miles off track — an octogenarian from Halifax, Nova Scotia who was reported missing from Newark Liberty International Airport before showing up attached to a kind and alert rider at the Merrick LIRR station.
The elderly Canadian was led by a rider who had noticed she was disoriented, so they approached Capobianco around 10:40 a.m. as he finished up a meal break and was returning to the ticket booth.
The commuter needed to make a train so she asked if Capobianco could help the lost traveler.
“I said “Don’t worry. I’ll get her help.’” He talked to her as she sat and heard her mention an address that wasn’t in Merrick, which he found odd. "She was confused."
But mainly, he said, “I just kept an eye on her and made sure she didn’t wander away.”
As he and his supervisor, Mary Fisekci, helped the lost traveler get comfortable, MTA police at Penn Station noticed the call for a woman in distress in Merrick as they noted an alert they received from Port Authority police about an elderly United Airlines passenger who had gone missing Thursday night.
Understandably, her relatives in Canada were concerned. They told officials that there was a possibility that the woman was searching for relatives in Seaford. That might explain the odd street address she mentioned to Capobianco.
MTA police put the two incidents together, officials said, and solved a Hitchcockian mystery of the lady who vanished.
“This is a great example of collaborative efforts from law enforcement,” said Meredith Daniels, a spokeswoman for the MTA, who said first responders took the woman to Nassau University Medical Center and she was reunited with her family. “We thank the Port Authority Police Department for transmitting this information to us and we commend our officers at Penn Station for connecting the dots while checking the active calls.”
She added: “Officers who reported to the scene were quick and efficient and were able to conduct interviews while Bellmore-Merrick EMS attended to the woman. This is certainly a story with a happy ending.”
Port Authority officials could not be reached for comment, but Capobianco said he did what he would want someone to do for his own lost relatives.
“I would want someone to help my mom like that,” he said, adding that MTA employees are trained to keep an eye open for people in distress as he praised the still unknown rider who brought the elderly traveler to his attention.
“I would hope someone would help them and keep them safe,” he added. “God forbid, if we’re ever in that situation ourselves, you’d want someone to do the right thing.”