NEW YORK — LaShawn Jones said she would never forget that day when a few years ago, she walked into an employee restroom where she worked as a station agent for the MTA and saw a dead body. The person had committed suicide just a short time before her shift and while EMS personnel were in the bathroom as well, Jones explained there were no signs indicating the bathroom was occupied or out of order.
“Very disturbing. That was disgusting. That was just horrible, just horrible,” recalled Jones.
What’s even more upsetting, Jones said, was the lack of cleanup afterwards. Later that same day, Jones said she went back to use the restroom and while the body was removed, a bloody mess was left behind in the bathroom sink .
TWU Local 100, the transit workers union, said this happens from time to time and they have brought the issue to the attention of supervisors in the past. In fact, union representatives said the issue was brought up last year and still, nothing has changed.
“It’s happening more often and members are talking about it,” said Derick Echevarria, Vice President for TWU Local 100.
The union says they blame the city’s Medical Examiner’s office. They believe a delay in picking up a deceased individual is leading to utility closets, restrooms and break-rooms being used to hold corpses for up to two hours.
The MTA confirms this has been a long standing practice and says there appears to be limited options here. An MTA spokesperson said it’s “of the utmost importance” that the body of anyone who dies in the subway is removed as quickly as possible. Police and the NYC Medical Examiner handle the removal.
“We’re not forensics specialists. We need some professionals. They want to train the cleaners, train them and pay them more. We’ll do it, but as of now that’s not our job,” said Echevarria.
In a statement, a city spokesperson said, “This Administration has invested $11M to increase staffing at the medical examiner’s office, which has allowed for examiners to arrive at emergency scenes faster than ever before. The medical examiner and NYPD are committed to reducing our response times even further to ensure both the humane treatment of the deceased and the health of subway workers and straphangers.”
The $11 million increase in funding was approved back in 2014 and lead to the addition of 127 positions.