Woman dead in escalator incident at LIRR station

An elderly woman died on an escalator at the Lindenhurst LIRR station on Tuesday afternoon. (Kristin Thorne)

March 14, 2012 2:12:59 PM PDT
An elderly woman is dead after an escalator incident at the Lindenhurst Long Island Rail Road station.

"Well I held him up, until we got all the way to the top," said Glenn Heimink, a cab driver.

Glenn Heimink, a cab driver at the LIRR's Lindenhurst station, says another elderly person fell on the escalator about a half hour before 88-year-old Irene Bernatzsky fell Tuesday and died.

"He had already fallen, and that's when I noticed him and he said, 'Help' and I went to help him," Heimink said.

The cab driver and just about everyone else Eyewitness News talked to there Wednesday said this escalator breaks all the time.

"I've seen it go up, then stop, then go again, it like, shakes, like," said Brian Lugo, a Lindenhurst LIRR passenger.

"Maybe two or three times a week. (It just doesn't run at all?) It doesn't run at all," said Tom Robinson, Lindenhurst LIRR passenger.

Wednesday, MTA investigators were there all day, the escalator was temporarily shut down as they tried to figure out how Irene Bernatzsky fell down.

A spokesman for the LIRR confirmed that "Her clothes became entangled in the escalator's treads."

Although it remains unclear if that happened before or after she fell.

Meanwhile, in Lindenhurst, where Bernatzsky lived with her son, her family remains too distraught to talk on camera.

Neighbors told Eyewitness News she was extremely strong for her age.

"She was in great shape, she walked all the time," said Michael Hewitt, the victim's neighbor.

"You say 88, they're old? This lady was not old, by no means. I mean, she did everything," said Eve Hough, the victim's neighbor.

They say, tragically, her son found out about the accident in the worst way.

"I know he had said he had driven by and saw the commotion going on and was wondering what had happened," said Dawan Shipsey, the victim's neighbor.

As investigators search for clues, at least one witness claims he noticed mechanical problems in the moments before the accident.

"The black handle on the right hand side, it wasn't even moving. (So, the railing was actually jammed?) Yeah. (Yesterday?) Yeah," Heimink said.

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