Thursday, May 26, 2011

Suicide at Union Square

Whew, so yesterday, there was a suicide at Union Square. I believe this would be the most upsetting thing a person could possibly see in the subways.

The most odd detail? The deceased left a full bag of groceries on the platform.

I'll never forget seeing an old classmate, in a wheelchair, without legs. He had tried to commit suicide by jumping in front of a subway train and failed, losing only his legs. I always wondered what kind of decision that would be, where you would do it, how impulsive it would be. It speaks for the human impulse against suicide, that more people don't chose this in NYC.

When looking to find statistics on this, I discovered that the MTA doesn't keep suicide records (perhaps out of respect.) I did find an abstract for an academic medical article though. I've highlighted what I found interesting.

J Forensic Sci. 2009 Nov;54(6):1414-8. Epub 2009 Oct 5.
Subway train-related fatalities in New York City: accident versus suicide.
Lin PT, Gill JR.
Office of Chief Medical Examiner, City of New York, Jamaica, New York, NY, USA. plin (at)
We examined the characteristics of subway train-related fatalities in New York City between Jan. 1, 2003 and May 31, 2007 in order to determine which factors are useful in differentiating accident from suicide. Subway train-related deaths with homicide and undetermined manners also are included. During this period, there were 211 subway train-related fatalities. The manners of death were: suicide (n = 111), accident (n = 76), undetermined (n = 20), and homicide (n = 4). The causes of death were blunt trauma (n = 206) and electrocution (n = 5). Torso transection and extremity amputation were more frequent in suicides. Antidepressant medications were more frequently detected in suicides, whereas cocaine and ethanol were more frequent in accidents. However, autopsy findings should be weighed in the context of the entire evaluation along with other circumstantial and investigative findings. In unwitnessed deaths where additional information is unavailable or discrepant, the most appropriate manner of death usually is undetermined.

Ultimately, though, my heart goes out to the family and friends of the deceased. This is a terrible loss, and something agonizing to grapple with.

Especially for the people who may have planned to share that bag of groceries.


  1. I was playing at the Union Sq. subway station that day. I arrived at noon, and noticed lots of police officers and fire fighters. I asked the busker who was playing at the spot before me what was going on and he told me that he heard that somebody jumped on the tracks. (Our spot is on the mezzanine, not on the platform).
    So sad - my heart goes to this person's family.

  2. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has drawn up some guidelines for reporting on suicide (including some especially for bloggers). Please have a look if you have a chance:

  3. Hi. So sad to read about this suicide in Union Square. Another subway suicide happened yesterday afternoon at 3pm, right before a friend and I got on the platform when the train had already arrived at the Union Turnpike-Kew Gardens, E line station. Unfortunately, it was a train that struck a person who had just jumped onto the tracks by the area of the stairwell we came down on. All we heard and saw were terrified screams of shock from the witnesses around us.