By Ivan Pereira
After a Brooklyn man gave up his own life to save a friend Friday night when she jumped onto the elevated subway tracks in Astoria to retrieve a coat she dropped, the MTA is instructing straphangers to use their heads when dealing with the tracks.
Beatriz Briceno, 19, of Manhattan was listed in critical but stable condition at Elmhurst Hospital Medical Center following the accident at the subway station at 36th Avenue and 31st Street around 10:30 p.m., hospital officials said. The teen’s friend, Jose Gomez, 29, of Bushwick, Brooklyn, did not survive the collision with the northbound N train and was killed at the scene, police said.
The incident started when Briceno, a native of Connecticut, dropped her jacket on the track while waiting for a train, police said. First she jumped down to retrieve the jacket and Gomez, whose exact relationship to the woman was not known, went down to assist her, according to the authorities.
The two did not make it out in time and were both hit by the train, with Gomez taking the brunt of the force, police said. Gomez, who is part Dominican and part Venezuelan, had recently moved to live with his family in Bushwick following a stay in Venezuela, according to neighbors.
Several of his relatives refused to comment about his death.
Officials at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said this type of accident could be avoided in the future if commuters follow the safety guidelines the agency promotes inside subway cars and stations. If a belonging falls onto the track, the agency said agents are on hand to safely retrieve the item.
“If a customer drops something onto the tracks, they should seek assistance from a transit employee, a police officer or use a customer assistance intercom to get someone there to retrieve the item,” the MTA said in a statement.
Commuters who drop down like Briceno and Gomez generally overestimate the speed and operation of the train, according to the agency.
“In one instant the coast looks clear, and you think you can hop down, retrieve your item and hop back up. In reality, it’s not that simple,” the MTA said. “In many instances there’s just not enough time or distance for a train operator to bring the train to a stop, either manually or automatically by engaging the emergency brake.”
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.