2006_10_nataliesmead.jpgThe Long Island Rail Road has been starting to fill in gaps at certain train platforms in the wake of various customer falls. Eighteen year old Natalie Smead, visiting from Minnesota and on her way to Manhattan for a concert, fell in the gap at the Woodside stop and was fatally hit by a train when she tried to get out of the tracks. Newsday found that the gaps at Woodside were as wide at 15 inches. Oddly enough, the Woodside station wasn't on the initial list of stations whose platform gaps needed to be closed (at this point, tracks at Shea Stadium, Jamaica, Southampton and Deer Park have been fixed).

Smead's parents sued the LIRR for $5 million last week. Peter Smead said, "I would like to be face to face with whoever the decision-makers are who made the decisions that led to this. This is not a problem that the railroad was not aware of. They knew it, they knew it." There were at least 100 gap accidents in 2004 and 2005. The Public Transportation Safety Board suggested that "pictographic gap warning signs and stencils" that say "Watch the Gap" should be put at every platform in the interim while the LIRR figures out how to improve platform safety. And the LIRR was also sued by an ex-NY Senator who fell into the gap in Lawrence.

Newsday has a section on the LIRR's platform gap problem.

Photograph of Natalie Smead and her father during their trip to NYC