Security guard at Oculus may have refused to help woman reach for hat before fatal plunge off escalator
The New Jersey woman who suffered a deadly fall inside the Oculus transit hub was reaching for her sister’s hat — after a security guard refused to help retrieve it from the edge of an escalator, sources said Monday.
Jenny Santos, 29, teetered over the handrail about halfway down the escalator at 5:30 a.m. Saturday, said a police source who viewed surveillance video of the accident.
Stretching to grab the hat that was just a few feet out of reach, Santos — who had a blood-alcohol content of 0.167, more than twice the legal limit for driving while intoxicated — lost her balance and plummeted 34 feet to the marble floor below.
Santos had gone down the escalator before her fall, trying to spot the hat, the police source said. She went back up to the top and asked a security officer — employed by the privately run Allied Universal — for assistance, the source said. The guard allegedly told Santos he was unable to leave his post — prompting her to return to the descending escalator and make her fatal grab.
Santos was on her way to a train back to Kearny, N.J. with her twin sister.
“It was one of the worst things I’ve seen on account of the stupidity of it all,” the source said.
An Allied spokesman referred all questions to Port Authority, which manages the site. A PA spokesman declined comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
Also Monday, a safety expert said Santos’ death could have been prevented, had the Port Authority installed a $5,000 outrigger handrail along the side of the escalator for added protection.
“You’d have to jump to fall over it,” said Patrick Carrajat, the author of “The History of the Elevator Industry in America.”
The extra 18-inch-wide rail is not very expensive, he added.
The escalator at the $4.4 billion transit center is currently in compliance with the safety code, which doesn’t require any extra handrail protection, experts said.
Front page of the New York Daily News for February 12, 2017: Jenny Santos, 29, of Kearny, N.J., fell to her death while stretching to grab her twin sister's falling hat inside the Oculus transit hub in lower Manhattan early Saturday morning.
Most buildings do not install the boosted handrail, even at spots where users could experience a fatal fall.
“They are not common,” Carrajat said. “In retrospect, should they have done it? Yes.”
Carrajat and others have been pressing the city for years to update the code so that the side guard would be required in dangerous areas.
“There are a couple things we can do,” he said. “No. 1 is to start redesigning escalators to put the European standard height handrails, which is about 8 inches higher than ours.”
Authorities have said the video of the accident shows Santos was horsing around on the handrail as she tried to retrieve the hat — mimicking a superhero before she lost her balance.
“It was pretty gruesome,” the police source said about the massive head injury she suffered. “When they brought her to the hospital they thought she had suffered some kind of gunshot wound. The whole side of her head was caved in,” the source said.