Sturdy new fiberglass railing were installed in a New York City subway tunnel last week - the day after one collapsed, sending a worker to his death.
Killed in the nine foot fall from a local track to an express track was 23-year-old St. Clair Zaire Stephens Richards, who had six months on the job, according to news reports.
NYC Transit President Andy Byford said it appeared that the railing gave way when Richards leaned on it. Byford ordered the inspection and replacement of railings after the fatality. He said other railings in the system would be inspected as well.
Adding to the tragedy was controversy over a union official who referred to Richard’s size when commenting on the tragedy. “The railing is broke,”said Transport Workers Union Local 100 President Tony Utano. “He was a big worker and the railing did break.”
That statement about Richard – who was portedly 6’3” and 270 pounds – infuriated transit employees, who slammed Utano and held a rally at the location where Richards died during which they chanted “Safety first.” Workers reportedly felt the comment blamed the victim and distracted the focus from the MTA’s failing infrastructure.