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May 24, 2004

Retarded Man Killed by Train After Leaving a Group Home

From: New York Times, NY - May 24, 2004


A mentally retarded man died yesterday when he walked away from a state-run group home in Chelsea, sat on the tracks in a nearby subway station and was struck by an oncoming train, the police said.

Sgt. Mike Wysokowski, a police spokesman, said the man, who was 39 and deaf, and may not have heard the train as he sat on the tracks beneath the platform of the station at 23rd Street and Seventh Avenue. A northbound No. 3 train struck him about 6:10 p.m.

"The train operator hit the emergency break, but it was too late," said Sgt. Wysokowski, who said the victim was severely retarded, with the "mind of a child."

He was declared dead at the scene.

The group home where the man lived is on West 24th Street. It was unclear how he managed to walk away, and whether his death resulted in any way from a breakdown of supervision.

The home is operated by the state's Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. Deborah Sturm-Rausch, a spokeswoman for the agency, declined late last night to comment on the circumstances of the death or to provide the address of the group home. But she said state officials were investigating how the man managed to make his way into a life-threatening situation.

"We are very saddened to hear of this tragic news, and the matter will be fully investigated," Ms. Sturm-Rausch said.

Sgt. Wysokowski said one of the aides at the 24th Street home described the victim as someone who had been fascinated by the subway and had apparently walked into the 23rd Street station before.

At some point after the man left the home, the aide realized he was gone and immediately ran to search for him at the station. But the aide, whose identity was not disclosed, was too late, Sgt. Wysokowski said.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company