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Man jumps onto Red Line tracks at Central and dies on contact with the third rail; service halted

Update: 8:50 p.m. After all first responders left the tracks, Red Line operators were given the OK to power the line back up.

Red Line service is at a halt, with shuttle buses trying to keep up with all the returning students, after somebody got on the tracks and then got a fatal jolt of electricity from the third rail around 7 p.m.

Transit Police report:

A male, approximate age of 35, jumped into the "pit" area. While trespassing in the right of way the male came into contact with the third rail. As a result the male has been pronounced deceased.

Passengers on one train walked through the tunnel to Central, only with some miscommunication between passengers and T workers and police:

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Comments

Just very sad all around.

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such as a mobile phone?

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If there were any indications that it was not suicide, the media would have probably released his name

If he were pushed, then, yes, police would release his name (eventually, not necessarily right away), but short of that, police aren't going to give out his name and the media won't be publishing it (even if it wasn't suicide, if he jumped down to retrieve something or had a dizzy spell and fell or whatever).

I have no idea what happened in this incident at Central. But a couple of years ago I saw exactly what Ron Newman is referring to at Savin Hill . A young man dropped his phone. He jumped off the platform to get his phone and as I was coming over to see if I could help he boosted himself back on the platform with no help. I asked if he was ok. He laughed and said yes as if nothing happened.

once i was with the t police at Park and someone reported a person on the tracks. We ran down stairs and found a guy looking for his glasses. The police stopped the trains, and the station master casually walked down the tracks, retrieved the glasses by reaching around the 3rd rail without turning off the power.

A couple of weeks ago a hundred or so passengers took a stroll down the orange line tracks with the power still on during a fire. Last night the police didn't even know passengers were in the tunnels. Who investigates these incidents? Between the subways and the commuter rail several people have lost their lives this year and the T's response is one word 'Trespassing'.

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I think if I had been there I would have said "WHY THE F**K DO YOU THINK WE'RE ON THE SIDE OF THE TRACKS?"

Contrary to misconceptions getting electrocuted by the 3rd Rail of a Subway Line is not automatic -- it actually takes some doing.

The 3rd Rail is at 600 V relative to the 2 other rails and potentially [A bad pun?] to wet soil or other things directly connected to Electrical Ground. However, simply touching the 3rd rail without providing a path to ground will not affect you at all -- no different than touching one terminal of a battery or one blade of a standard appliance plug -- just a higher voltage.

Indeed if you were wearing sneakers or shoes with rubber soles you could sit on the 3rd rail and grab-on with one or both hands -- nothing would happen. However, implausible it might seem -- electrical workers making repairs to High Voltage Power Lines -- don't try to insulate themselves from the voltage the thickness of the required insulation would make moving virtually impossible -- they in fact make a very good contact to the wire carrying say 125 kV, 345 kV or even more. Just like a bird sitting on one wire -- nothing will or even can happen.

So -- unless both you and the railbed are wet with salt water -- you need to touch the third rail with part of your body [skin contact] and one of the other rails with another part of your body [skin contact]. The separation between the 3rd Rail and the other rails is such that this contact is not automatic even if you fall onto the 3rd Rail -- just only grab it and it only until you can carefully get free [of course you might get hit by a train -- so this is not recommended].

Finally, to get electrocuted and not just shocked or burned -- you need to make a path for the current which includes your heart -- such as arm to arm, or head to feet or left arm to right leg. Even arm to foot or leg on the same side of the body most likely results in real bad burns [including damage to internal organs with could be fatal but not electrocution].

The old electrician's motto wear rubber soled shoes and put your left hand in your back pocket when handling live electrical conductors and nothing really bad can happen.

Electrical engineer here, with 25 years experience including High Voltage Equipment and High Voltage Electrosurgery. Interesting summary omits the dangers of dielectric breakdown and skin effect of current carrying conductors. Just because there isn’t an apparent ground in the 3rd rail circuit with a human body impedance connected, does not by any means indicate that a fatal fault cannot occur. A pinhole in a rubber safety glove can spell (potentially fatal) disaster. Theory and scenarios are one thing, but any contact with high voltage *always* carries a high risk. How old are those sneakers?

You make some good points about electrical safety

I was just trying to dispel the misconceptions associated with things electrical

Completely omitted from the discussion was anything associated with contact resistivity frequency effects [e.g. skin depth] or dielectric breakdown of air or other insulators.

While I've no personal experience with Touching the 3rd Rail in an energized state -- I've probably have done a lot more than my share of touching other energized items [wide range of voltages, AC, DC, even RF]. I even had a close encounter with Ball Lightning when I was an adolescent at a summer camp.

I still very well remember my first shock by household AC -- I was about 5 and I got it across a finger to a thumb. I also vividly remember my most embarrassing serious shock -- hand to hand in the midst of setting up my science fair exhibit for the judges who were working the row before mine In the excitement of the moment I forgot that the charging supply for some large capacitors had already been turned on -- luckily the energy was limited to what was stored in the capacitors -- although I discharged them across the chest in as close to a Defib as my equipment could emulate. Blasted thing dropped me to the floor in a suit and tie and I was still "electrified" psychologically when they showed up about 10 minutes later.

The fact that I'm typing this suggests that I'm either very lucky or on very good terms with Thor and or Zeus.

Moral of the story -- be respectful of electricity -- but not fearful -- as it is Humanities best servant. Harnessing electricity is second only to harnessing fire in achieving the modern world.