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LIRR Officials: Elderly Escalator Victim ‘Asphyxiated’ At Lindenhurst Station

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Closed escalator at the Long Island Rail Road station - Lindenhurst, NY - Mar 14, 2012 (credit: Mike Xirinachs / WCBS 880)

Closed escalator at the Long Island Rail Road station – Lindenhurst, NY – Mar 14, 2012 (credit: Mike Xirinachs / WCBS 880)

LINDENHURST, NY (CBSNewYork) - A preliminary investigation and autopsy indicate the elderly woman who died at the Lindenhurst Long Island Rail Road station Tuesday fell on the escalator before her clothing became entangled and she was asphyxiated, the LIRR said in a statement.

Flowers and burning candles now mark the blocked escalator entrance at the station where the 88-year-old woman, identified as Irene Bernatzky, was killed.

WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs on the story

Those who knew Bernatzky said she was on her way into New York City to visit her daughter at the time of the accident, 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reported.

1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera speaks with neighbors

Bernatzky lived less than a mile from the LIRR station. Neighbor Dawn Shipsey says the 88-year-old’s son had just dropped his mother off at the station.

“He said that he came back for some reason and saw all the police action there and came back and stopped and found out it was his mom,” Shipsey said.

Another neighbor, Michael Hewitt, said Bernatzky was a strong woman who often took the train.

“She did a lot of walking, a lot of walking,” he said. “She went into the city to see her daughter and I really don’t know what happened after that.”

Shocked commuters say there is an ongoing problem with the escalator.

“For years and years, this thing has been a problem. Never been addressed right, always broken down, never running right,” one man told WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs. “You need to hold on and the handrail isn’t moving, the escalator is. I mean, I don’t know what happened, but I assume that’s probably what happened.”

LIRR officials, however, said that the escalator is inspected monthly and maintained in “good operating condition.”  It was, however, apparently slated for replacement in an earlier capital program prior to the economic downturn.

The escalator remains out of service as the investigation continues.

Do you know of any other problem escalators on the LIRR? Please tell us about them in the comments section below!

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