The 21-year-old man who died after catching fire while atop a Metro-North train was remembered as a "wonderful joy" by friends and family. Brian McClellen, a model and aspiring actor from Ohio who was working in New York City, had suffered severe burns to much of his body.
On Sunday morning around 5 a.m., a New Haven line train headed to New York stopped in Riverside when it lost electricity. Train workers went to investigate what happened—and found McClellen on fire. The workers extinguished the blaze with a fire extinguisher and McClellen was transported to Westchester Medical Center's burn unit.
News 12 Connecticut reported that police believe the man jumped onto the moving train near the Greenwich/Stamford line and rode it for a while. The Post's sources said that there was video that showed McClellen "apparently intoxicated" climbing onto the train car: "Investigators believe the victim, who lives near Union Square, was burned after coming in contact with the train’s pantograph, which collects power from the 12,500 volts in the wires."
An example of a pantograph (istockphoto)
Further, the Greenwich Post reports, "Greenwich Police said Sunday morning that the pantograph, which is the device mounted on top of an electric train to collect power from the overhead wires likely fell on him, causing him to be burned and/or electrocuted." MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said, "We are continuing the investigation about how and why he was on top of the train. We will have a briefing for the press when we have that information available."
McClellen's agent Ryan Colby said that his client had been booked to work on the upcoming TV series, Younger, starring Sutton Foster and Hillary Duff.
"We’d had a rocky road for a couple months last year. He was being mischievous and not checking in, and I had to have a little sit-down with him last winter and said, `Look, Brian, you’ve got to get it together. If you want to do this, you can’t disappear for three days, four days. You’ve got to be communicative. I’m your agent, I need to know where you’re at seven days a week.’
“He turned it around. He said, `Look, I’m sorry, I’m just going crazy I’m in New York, I’m trying to have fun.’ I said, `Look, you can have fun, but you’ve got to work.’ And he did.
“Every day, he would tell me, ‘I’m working at 3 o’clock, I’m doing this at 2 o’clock, I’m going to the gym.’ He was super communicative. He totally turned it around, and I was super proud of him. His work increased because if I feel I can get ahold of you, I’ll get you more work.”
Colby also said McClellen liked being a daredevil, "It’s part of what you do when you're a boy between 17 and 25 years old and you think you’re invincible."
His aunt posted this message on Facebook: "My dear nephew Brian, my heart aches this morning. I will miss you dearly, your beautiful smile, your warm personality, and your positive outlook on life. You were such a wonderful joy to us all. Be at peace, it was too soon for you to be taken from us all, you will be in our hearts forever. RIP, Brian."