2010-04-30 / Front Page

MTA Supervisor Electrocuted

By Howard Schwach
An MTA track supervisor was killed early Monday morning when he fell onto the third rail at the Beach 90 Street A Line station and was electrocuted, police sources say.

Police and MTA response vehicles line up under the A Train elevated structure at Beach 90 Street early on Monday morning. Police and MTA response vehicles line up under the A Train elevated structure at Beach 90 Street early on Monday morning. MTA officials say that James Knell, 45, of East Rockaway, was restoring the tracks at the darkened station at about 4:30 a.m., when he touched the electrified, deadly rail. Train service had been halted for the weekend due to a station rehabilitation program and Knell was part of the crew readying the station to be reactivated for the morning rush.

An MTA spokesperson said that Knell was the first person to be killed on the system in three years.

Knell had been with the agency for 13 years, and was supervisor for the past nine years.

A top union official told the Daily News that it was pouring when Knell was killed, and blasted the MTA for forcing workers onto the tracks during heavy rainstorms.

“Working in the rain around a live third rail is inherently dangerous,” said the union official. “It shouldn’t have happened and now this man is not going home to his family.”

Union sources say the crew stopped work earlier in the overnight period because of the heavy rain, and that Knell should not have been working when wet conditions prevailed.

They called Knell a “stand-up track worker.”

Sources said that the power to the track had just been restored, but that a protective board had not yet been placed on top of the toxic electrified rail.

Knell was retrieving a bucket of spikes that had been left on the tracks when he slipped, possibly on loose gravel on the concrete walkway beside the track.

Service on the A Line was suspended until 11 a.m. Shuttle buses were used to transport riders around the accident site.

Knell reportedly left a wife and two step-children.

MTA officials said that they were investigating the cause of the tragic death and would “work to insure that nothing like this could ever happen again.”

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