NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Members of a Long Island community were in shock Wednesday after a Nesconset teen was hit and killed by a subway train at an Upper West Side station while in the city the night before celebrating his 18th birthday.
Smithtown High School East senior Liam Armstrong, 18, died Tuesday after being hit by a Bronx-bound, No. 2 express train, police said.
He and his two friends were waiting for a train at the 79th Street station when they realized they were on the wrong platform, police said. Instead of taking the stairs, police said they attempted to run across the four tracks.
That’s when Armstrong was hit and crushed by the incoming train.
Witnesses described what happened.
“They crossed the tracks the hard way as opposed to coming upstairs and going around,” one witness said. “They just ran across the tracks and got hit by the 2 train in the express tunnel.”
The train’s operator pulled the emergency brake after seeing one teen make it across the tracks and then tried to stop the train for Armstrong, but the operator could not stop in time, police said.
Passenger Javier Corro was on the train.
“The conductor said, ‘Oh my God!’ and the train just stopped – suddenly, it stopped,” he said.
A source told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello that police found a bottle of alcohol in Armstrong’s backpack.
Psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Gardere said risky decisions can be a big danger to young adults.
“Their brains are not fully developed. The prefrontal cortex is booming with energy and stray thoughts. Possibly alcohol in the mix, lower, much lower impulse control and you end up taking a lot of really crazy risks and in this case it was a fatal one,” Dr. Gardere said.
Friends said Armstrong was a popular member of the lacrosse team. Many were stunned Wednesday after learning what happened.
“It’s crazy right now — can’t believe it,” said friend and fellow senior Nick Aurrichio, 17. “I’ve been friends with him since elementary school. I’m just concerned about his family, younger siblings. I’m just really upset right now.”
“Liam’s a smart kid, it’s just a mistake that took his life,” senior Anthony Rampias told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera. “It’s just a shame what happened. He was just a good person.”
“He was all our best friend, just a great kid, great future ahead of him, and it’s just a shame,” friend Dan Vazac told CBS 2’s Aiello.
The friends who were with Armstrong celebrating his birthday in the city kept low profiles at home Wednesday, but one of them took to Twitter to express his grief.
Dakota Walsh wrote: “(you’re) my brother – i’m sorry i didn’t protect you.”
Police stood guard outside Armstrong’s Nesconset home Wednesday morning as a steady stream of friends and neighbors visited the family. The teen’s father works for the Nassau County Police Department.
“Going out with your friends, planning on having a good time and his life is now gone,” neighbor Frank Gentile told CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell. “That’s a lot to handle.”
Smithtown High School East flew its flag at half-staff Wednesday in memory of the teen. The school has also canceled its upcoming lacrosse game against Port Washington.
Superintendent of Schools Anthony J. Annunziato issued the following statement on Wednesday:
“The Smithtown Schools and Community mourn the tragic loss of one of our students, Liam Armstrong, on March 26, 2013. Liam, a student at Smithtown High School East, was a popular student among his peers and the high school staff. He was a vibrant young man who will be missed by all who knew him. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
Earlier this year, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said the city was on pace for 100 train-related deaths in 2013 — almost twice as many as last year.
Stringer had called on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority inspector general to investigate and come up with possible solutions.
On Wednesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the subway operators and called this a terrible accident.
“You can’t stop somebody from running across the tracks, what do you expect them to do? I mean, it’s a tragedy and I don’t know what you say to the parents. A young kid makes a mistake on a dare — all kids when they grow up dare things and do stupid things and we’ve all looked back and said, ‘but for the grace of God, thank goodness the accident didn’t happen,'” Bloomberg said. “In this case, the probabilities caught up with this young kid but it’s hard to fault the MTA for this.”
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