20 Aug 2014
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LIRR: Lindenhurst Escalator Victim Asphyxiated

An autopsy concludes that Irene Bernatzky suffocated after her clothes became entangled in the treads of the escalator at the Lindenhurst train station on Tuesday, say LIRR officials.

LIRR: Lindenhurst Escalator Victim Asphyxiated

The MTA LIRR has revealed the cause of death of the 88-year-old woman who lost her life at the Lindenhurst train station on Tuesday afternoon was asphyxiation.

This finding came after an autopsy was done on , of Lindenhurst, and following a preliminary investigation by MTA Police, which on Wednesday found that Bernatzky's clothing became in the treads after on the escalator that services the platform.

"The MTA Police and LIRR are conducting a full investigation into [Tuesday’s] tragic escalator accident at Lindenhurst, and the escalator will remain out of service until it's complete," according to a statement released on Wednesday night.

LIRR officials noted in the same statement that the escalator is inspected monthly and is maintained in good operating condition.

"While this escalator was slated for replacement in an earlier capital program prior to the economic downturn, older escalators were prioritized due to limited funding. The service time for an escalator ranges from 20 to 25 years, and this escalator was installed in 1994," the LIRR said in the statement.

LIRR spokesperson Sam Zambuto said on Wednesday afternoon this escalator was "last inspected in early February following a minor repair," though he didn't have details about that repair at the time.

The inspection log for the escalator at the Lindenhurst station that was later provided by LIRR officials showed that on February 3 a broken top comb plate had to be replaced.

Then on February 9 the upper left comb plate broke due to rust and was replaced. The routine monthly maintenance check was performed the same day the second plate was replaced.

The next significant date on the log was March 13, the date of the incident, and it showed that the escalator was shutdown "for complete testing" while the investigation by MTA Police is on-going.

(For more information see the accompaying PDF file of the Lindenhurst train station escalator inspections log from 2010-2012.)


Editor's Note: This is a breaking news story. Check back with Lindenhurst Patch for updates.

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