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Avella sounds alarm for rail safety

Authorities say a Little Neck man was hit by an eastbound train last week. Photo by Steve Mosco
TimesLedger Newspapers

A horrific railroad accident that left one man dead is prompting an elected official to push for new safety measures.

Hours after Little Neck resident Paul P. Corsello, 71, was struck and killed by an eastbound Long Island Rail Road train at the Little Neck station around 10:15 a.m. last Thursday, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) condemned the rail crossing as a community safety hazard.

“The problem stems from the fact that this station is the only LIRR station on the Port Washington line in Queens that is on ground level,” he said, adding that he has worked with the city Department of Transportation and the LIRR to put possible safety measures in place at the station.

Authorities said the train sideswiped Corsello, who lived only a few blocks from the station and appeared to be crossing the tracks at the time of the incident. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is currently investigating his death. Workers at Ollie’s Taxi & Airport Service were in their office adjacent to the tracks when the incident occurred and were alerted by a driver who came running inside.

Leslie Nolette, a driver at Ollie’s, came upon the gruesome scene when she went outside to see what had happened. She also noticed a woman standing dazed and motionless near the scene.

It was Corsello’s wife.

“I said, ‘Excuse me, are you OK?’ She looked at me and told me it was her husband,” said Nolette. “I gave her a hug and walked her away from the tracks.”

Other workers at Ollie’s said they did not hear the train sound its horn, leading them to believe the conductor never saw the doomed pedestrian. Jerry Dietrich and Jennifer Desousa, both employees at Ollie’s, said people are always ducking the barriers at this station to get to the westbound platform.

“No one listens to the alarms and they ignore the barriers,” said Dietrich. “It’s just horrible.”

Desousa said she feels heartbroken for the wife.

“I can’t imagine what she’s feeling,” she said. “It’s so sad, especially around the holidays.”

The fatality was one that Avella has tried to prevent. He said he has worked with the DOT and LIRR to place safety guards at the station, and while he commends the effort carried out so far, the latest accident is a grim reminder that more must be done.

“At this time, my thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim,” he said. “We should take a look at what exactly happened and what additional steps can be taken to prevent such a horrific accident from occurring in the future.”

But in the present, drivers at Ollie’s are still shaken by what they witnessed this morning.

“I can’t get the sight of his body out of my head,” said Nolette. “It’s a vision no one wants to see.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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Reader Feedback

Smart from Little Neck says:
Moral of story....DO NOT CROSS THE F'N tracks when the gates are down or you will get killed! Stupid!
Dec. 20, 2012, 3:49 pm
kg2v from Bayside says:
And like it or not, bring back the horns. Folks, the trains were sounding their horns/whistles there since before you were born, Get over it
Dec. 20, 2012, 8:03 pm

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