A profile in the New York Times this morning reveals that subway deaths take an expectedly large toll on train operators. Not only are they required to return to work — after just three days — following a death on the tracks (the next day if the passenger's injuries were only minor), but the men and women "involved in fatal hits can take months to return if they go on compensated leave while recovering from trauma," the paper writes.
A spokesperson for the MTA said that operators are often asked to examine the scene and report back to first responders. They are then required to sit for a drug test within hours of the accident. In the case of Mike Casella, whose G train struck and killed a man at Flushing Avenue 25 years ago, "the shock of the accident caused him to lose all feeling beneath his waist." He was hospitalized for one day following the incident.
Still, train employees are told that a train fatality per week is to be expected. New York City started this year with its first, just hours after the ball drop, when a woman lay down on the tracks at West 34th Street and was killed by a northbound No. 2 train. In 2011, the Times reports, there were 47 subway-related deaths, and in 2012 there were 55. For both passengers and operators, we hope those numbers come down for 2013.