Train Crash Killed Rockefeller Center Tree Worker

Lighting expert, 3 others mourned as inquiry begins
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 2, 2013 3:00 AM CST
Updated Dec 2, 2013 7:41 AM CST
Train Victim: Man Working on Rockefeller Center Tree
Cars from a Metro-North passenger train are scattered after yesterday's derailment.   (AP Photo/Edwin Valero)

A sad twist in yesterday's horrific train derailment in the Bronx: One of the four people killed when the train came off the rails at a riverside curve was lighting and sound expert Jim Lovell, who was on his way to help set up the famous Rockefeller Christmas tree for the holidays. The National Transportation Safety Board has begun its investigation of the incident, which injured 63 people, 11 of them critically.

  • Lovell also worked as a sound technician on the Today show, where the executive producer says he is mourning his colleague, the Wall Street Journal reports. Friends describe the 58-year-old as a free spirit, a keen historian, and a devoted father of four who had survived both cancer and open heart surgery in recent years.

  • The other victims have been named as Donna Smith, a 54-year-old paralegal heading to the city with her sister to see Handel's "Messiah," Kisook Ahn, 35, a registered nurse on her way home from a night shift, and James Ferrari, 59, the New York Times reports.
  • The most seriously injured of the survivors is 43-year-old Metropolitan Transportation Authority worker Samuel Rivera, who has a spinal cord injury and may never walk again, reports the New York Daily News. Driver William Rockefeller suffered unspecified injuries.
  • The NTSB says its investigators will take around 10 days to probe the accident, which sent all seven of the train’s cars and its locomotive off the tracks, reports the AP. The Federal Railroad Administration has also sent a team of investigators, according to the BBC. Investigators have already recovered the event recorder—the train equivalent of a black box.
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the track doesn't appear to have been the problem, leaving speed as one of the likeliest causes. Survivors and witnesses say the train appeared to be going much faster than usual at the curve.
  • Rockefeller, the train's driver, reported the same thing to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Times reports. He told the first rescuers on the scene that he'd tried an emergency maneuver known as "dumping the brakes," which involves slamming the emergency brakes on all the cars at once.
  • Rockefeller suffered undisclosed injuries in the crash. He's a 15-year MTA veteran, and his uncle tells the New York Daily News that he's also "been in fire departments, rescues. ... Everything with him was safety." Another source says he's "traumatized over the accident."
(Read more New York City stories.)

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