The commuting nightmare that froze four major subway lines in western Queens during this morning’s rush hour was sparked by an alleged cellphone thief who went on the run and onto the tracks.
MTA New York City Transit described the “series of events” in a long post on its Facebook page on Tuesday morning.
At about 7:40 a.m., according to the MTA, the suspect grabbed a cellphone out of the hands of a 13-year-old boy while riding a Manhattan-bound M train approaching the Northern Boulevard station.
Seconds later, according to the MTA, the suspect was seen running off the platform and down the catwalk eastbound toward the 65th Street station. Upon being notified of the incident, the MTA rerouted all Manhattan-bound M and R local trains to the express tracks; all eastbound trains were advised to proceed through the tunnel with caution.
Moments later, MTA dispatchers received a report from the operator of a Jamaica-bound F train indicating that he heard something strike the side of his train near the 65th Street station.
The train operator then stopped the train and went out to inspect the roadbed. In doing so, he discovered a man who was later identified as the alleged phone thief lying next to the westbound express track. The thief had been sideswiped by the train and suffered minor injuries.
Power was then cut to the third rail, and all train traffic was brought to a halt on the Queens Boulevard Line, as police and EMS units came to the thief’s assistance. Two nearby trains were stalled while the rescue took place.
The thief was taken into custody by police and brought to Elmhurst Hospital for treatment of his injuries. Charges against him are pending, police sources told QNS.
After the man was removed, service was restored on the E, F, M and R lines, but with delays.