A New York train operator was killed while trying to help his passengers escape a burning train.
Garrett Goble, 36, died on early Friday morning in Harlem when the No. 2 train he was operating went up in flames, reported The New York Post. Sixteen people were injured during the blaze, including five firefighters. Authorities recovered a badly burned grocery basket and believe that was the starting point of the fire.
“As [the train] reached 110th Street here, an employee that was on the train reported to the motorman that there was heavy smoke and fire coming from the second car,” NYPD Deputy Chief Brian McGee said during a press conference.
“The train stopped, and many people got off because there was a large, large fire on that train.”
The NYPD labeled the incident as suspicious and will investigate it as an arson. Goble and a conductor who was off-duty helped passengers escape the burning car. Tony Utano, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 100, told the Post the conductor “is a little traumatized.”
“He was happy that what he did to save the passengers made him feel that he did a good thing,” Utano added.
Goble was found unconscious, lying on the train tracks. He was transported to a local hospital, where he would be pronounced dead. Investigators believe he succumbed to cardiac arrest caused by the smoke.
Goble left behind a wife and two sons, a 10-year-old and a 5-month-old. Delilah Goble, Goble’s wife, knew something was wrong when she did not receive a phone call from her husband during his shift. Her worst fear was realized when the police appeared on her doorstep to give the bad news. When Rodriguez heard how he had helped the riders, she wasn’t surprised.
“It doesn’t surprise me that this is how he lost his life,” she told The New York Daily News. “He would do anything [to help]. … He was a great guy. He was funny. He was the best father. He loved his kids so much.”
Goble’s widow admitted that the days since the tragedy have been difficult.
“I’m just numb. Actually, it feels like a dream. I feel like he’s going to come through the door. I don’t think I’ll ever accept this,” she told Post. “I’ll just learn to live with it. I don’t know how I’m supposed to go on without him.”
He also left behind a heartbroken mother.
“The whole thing doesn’t make sense. Set a fire! For what reason? A good man was taken from this earth and the rest of us just have to continue on as best we can,” Vicky Goble said. “I’m too shell-shocked to be angry.”
Goble’s elder son is taking his father’s death hard, according to Rodriguez.
“It comes in waves. Sometimes he just sits, looking out the window crying, ‘I want to see my dad,’” she said.
New York has been hit hard by the coronavirus epidemic, making it difficult to plan a funeral.
“We are looking at funeral homes and what we are allowed [to do]. If we can’t do what we want to do, once this is over, we will have a memorial for him,” Vicky said.
Utano is also saddened by Goble’s death.
“This is a sad day for our entire city. We’re devastated,” he told reporters. Goble had been with MTA for six years. “He was starting a whole new career. He was family, and now it’s over. It’s over just like that.”
MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye mourned Goble and announced a $50,000 cash reward for anyone with information that could lead to the apprehension and conviction of the person who set the fire.
“The entire MTA family mourns [Goble’s] death alongside a grateful city,” Foye said. “Our hearts break for his family, loved ones and all those who knew him.”
The NYPD also offered a reward, making it a combined total of up to $52,500. No arrests have been made. A person of interest was taken into custody but released after an interview with the NYPD.
On Sunday, the police released a photo of a man wanted for questioning. Anyone with tips is encouraged to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). NYPD also accepts tips on Twitter and the department’s website.