Seriously Injured Passenger Files to Hold New Jersey Transit Accountable for Safety Failures Leading to Fatal Hoboken Crash
Newark, NJ (October 11, 2016) – Sheldon M. Kest, who first started riding transit more than 50 years ago, was seriously injured in the recent New Jersey Transit (NJT) crash and is going to court to hold the agency accountable for safety failures that led to the fatal incident, he and his attorneys announced today after his formal Notice of Claim was filed. His extensive injuries included the partial amputation of his right middle finger, a broken nose, and multiple deep cuts to his head and face.
Mr. Kest, 66, a Tenafly resident and highly experienced information technology manager for a Jersey City-based financial institution, said of the crash and his post-accident legal action, “I need to know, and the public has the right to know, “Why did it happen? How did it happen? And who should be held accountable so it doesn’t happen again?” I’ve been riding trains and transit vehicles for more than 50 years, but I don’t know when I’ll be able to board another train. Right now I’m anxious even to ride in a car. I continue to struggle with the horrific memories of this tragedy.”
Trial attorney Tom Kline, of Kline & Specter, P.C., one of the two law firms jointly representing Mr. Kest and his wife, Lynda, said, “It is distressing but understandable that as the accidents, injuries and deaths increase, the public’s confidence remains shaken in rail operators, nationally and locally.”
Andrew R. Duffy, of Saltz, Mongeluzzi & Bendesky, co-counsel in the case, added, “There is no excuse for operating that train at more than twice the speed restriction entering the station (10 MPH), and there is no excuse for the NJT’s deadly deferral of Positive Train Control (PTC) that every industry operator, expert, and government regulator has known for decades prevents these accident and saves lives.”
Mr. Kest, a Brooklyn native who received his undergraduate and advanced degrees in computer science at CCNY, was a regular commuter on the NJT train, boarding at the New Bridge Landing Station near the home he shares with Lynda, his wife of nearly 40 years. The couple has two sons and a young grandson, who Mr. Kest has been unable to visit since the incident.
“Our grandson lives only minutes away, but I’m just not ready for him to see his Papa in this condition,” he stated. “How do you even start to explain to a child what happened, how I lost part of a finger, and got so bloodied and cut up? But much worse, how do you explain how somebody innocently standing on the train platform would never again see her child?”
Mr. Kest is continuing to see several different doctors – including plastic and orthopedic surgeons and a neurologist – for his post-incident treatment. He is also hoping that at some point he can resume work and having a good night’s sleep.
“I was always a sound sleeper, but not anymore,” he recounts. “Now I get up several times during the night, reliving those horrible moments in the first car of that train.”
Besides seeking justice through the courts, he is hoping to meet the good Samaritans that came to his assistance.
“Given my recent knee surgery, there’s just no way I could have hoisted myself through that window. I don’t know what would have happened without those guys lifting me up,” he said. “I look forward to the day when I can find out their identity and thank them in person.”
The law firms, that have catastrophic personal injury practices, filed the first passenger lawsuits after the Amtrak Train No. 188, May 12, 2015 derailment in Philadelphia, and together they represent nearly 30 passengers-victims in that tragedy. In addition, they represent the family of one of the two Amtrak rail workers killed in the Train No. 89, April 2016 crash near Chester, Pennsylvania. Attorneys Kila B. Baldwin, of K&S, and Michael A. Budner, of SMB, are part of the legal team.
Remarks of Sheldon M. Kest
October 11, 2016
Good morning. As you just heard, I am here with my wife Lynda – we’ll be married 40 years in December – and I feel very lucky to be alive. I was a regular passenger on the Pascack Valley Line – boarding for my trip to Hoboken at New Bridge Landing near my home in Tenafly – on my way to work as an IT manager in Jersey City. I was in the first car, seated about the middle of the car, on the aisle, which I favored having recently undergone knee surgery to repair a ruptured tendon. Anyway, my ride that day was like any other – that is until the lights in the car went dark and the roof of the car started collapsing. We’d crashed. And I remember debris strewn in the aisle, which with my rehabbing knee, meant I had no chance of leaving through the door at the back. Luckily, a young woman near me kicked out a window as I was I shouting, “Somebody help me. I just had knee surgery.” And two wonderful men – total strangers to this day – helped me out that window. I wish I could find out who they were so I could thank them. We are heartbroken over the injuries to all the others, and especially for those that lost a loved one who was just standing on the train platform. I’m so blessed to be here, and to hopefully, through the legal system, help prevent another senseless, deadly New Jersey Transit crash. I have many injuries that you can plainly see – the amputation of a portion of this finger and these deep cuts to my head and face. I need to know, “Why did it happen? How did it happen? And who should be held accountable so it never happens again?” I’ve been riding trains and transit vehicles for more than 50 years, but I don’t know when I’ll be able to board another train . . . right now I’m anxious even to ride in a car. I continue to struggle with the horrific memories of this tragedy.