Subway Train-Related Fatalities in New York City: Accident versus Suicide*

Authors

  • Peter T. Lin M.D.,

    1. Office of Chief Medical Examiner, City of New York and Department of Forensic Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY.
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  • James R. Gill M.D.

    1. Office of Chief Medical Examiner, City of New York and Department of Forensic Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY.
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  • *

    Presented at the 60th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences on Feb. 21, 2008, in Washington, DC.

Additional information and reprint requests:
Peter T. Lin, M.D.
Office of Chief Medical Examiner
City of New York
160-15 82nd Drive
Jamaica, NY 11432
E-mail: plin@ocme.nyc.gov

Abstract

Abstract:  We examined the characteristics of subway train-related fatalities in New York City between Jan. 1, 2003 and May 31, 2007 in order to determine which factors are useful in differentiating accident from suicide. Subway train-related deaths with homicide and undetermined manners also are included. During this period, there were 211 subway train-related fatalities. The manners of death were: suicide (= 111), accident (= 76), undetermined (= 20), and homicide (= 4). The causes of death were blunt trauma (= 206) and electrocution (= 5). Torso transection and extremity amputation were more frequent in suicides. Antidepressant medications were more frequently detected in suicides, whereas cocaine and ethanol were more frequent in accidents. However, autopsy findings should be weighed in the context of the entire evaluation along with other circumstantial and investigative findings. In unwitnessed deaths where additional information is unavailable or discrepant, the most appropriate manner of death usually is undetermined.

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