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NTSB releases findings after Lynbrook LIRR death

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A report released by the National Transportation Safety Board last week cited alcohol as a factor that played into the death of a man who was fatally struck by a train at the Lynbrook Long Island Rail Road station in April.

“The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the accident was the failure of the passenger to recognize that the departing train was moving as he walked on the station platform,” the NTSB report reads. “Contributing to the cause of the accident was the high level of alcohol in the passenger at the time of the accident.”

Karl Aarseth, a resident of Noble Street in Lynbrook, was killed at the station on April 5 after the departing train struck him. He was 65. According to the NTSB report, Aarseth had a .23 percent blood alcohol level at the time of the incident. Drivers are considered drunk with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or higher.

Aarseth was returning to Lynbrook after attending the International Auto Show in Manhattan and took a train home from Pennsylvania Station. At around 8:12 p.m., he got off the Long Beach-bound train and was struck by it, dragged along the platform and killed.

The NTSB’s report said that officials studied camera footage of the incident. “The videos showed that the passenger was walking down the platform, reached out to touch the moving train, then leaned into the moving train," it reads.

Because he did not have family, Aarseth left his estate to a close friend, Charles Abar, whose daughter was Aarseth’s goddaughter. In May, Abar filed a $10 million lawsuit against the LIRR in State Supreme Court. He retained the Garden City-based firm Sullivan, Papain, Block, McGrath & Cannavo P.C., which represented Natalie Smead, a teen from Minnesota who was killed by an LIRR train in 2006 after she fell into the gap at Woodside station in Queens.

Deanne Caputo, one of the attorneys representing Abar, said in May that the firm was looking into whether it was a gap incident and whether the LIRR was negligent. The suit alleges that Aarseth died “due to the negligence, carelessness and recklessness” of the LIRR, including how it designed, built and maintained the platform. The lawsuit states that Aarseth suffered “severe multiple blunt impact injuries.”

“There is more feedback that the gap was involved, but it doesn’t mean that that is the only theory or the theory that will ultimately be the one that the lawsuit is based on,” Caputo said at the time, adding that Abar declined to comment.

Caputo did not respond to a request for comment on this story after the NTSB’s findings were released. A spokesman for the LIRR referred the Herald to the NTSB’s findings and offered no further comment on the pending litigation.

In May, the NTSB released a preliminary report about the incident. According to the document, crewmembers aboard the train said that as it was stopped in Lynbrook, the conductor was in the third car, and the assistant conductor was on the platform, near the seventh car. The assistant conductor signaled with a flashlight that all passengers were clear of the train. The conductor acknowledged the signal, closed the doors and told the engineer to depart the station.

“After the train began moving, the conductor said he saw a person move toward the train, about halfway down the platform, near the waiting room,” the report reads. “The conductor said the person made contact with the side of the fifth or sixth car of the train and fell to the ground. The conductor then called the engineer over the intercom to stop the train, as he also signaled for the train to stop.” After the train stopped, the conductor and assistant conductor found Aarseth’s body about 85 feet from the east end of the station. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Aarseth was born in Rockville Centre on April 22, 1952. He had no siblings, never married and was predeceased by his parents, Karl Sr. and Marilyn, whom he cared for until their deaths. He had recently retired from a position in finance at the Henry Schein health care company.

Shortly after his death, neighbors remembered Aarseth as a fun-loving guy who enjoyed cars, horseracing and fitness. “He was a great guy,” his neighbor Phyllis Matonte told the Herald in May. “Everybody loved him.”