Subway operator killed, 17 others injured in Manhattan train fire believed to be arson

Investigators think the fire was started intentionally.

Police officers outside of the 110th Street Central Park North stop in New York, Friday, March 27.
Police officers outside of the 110th Street Central Park North stop in New York, Friday, March 27. –Mark Abramson/The New York Times

NEW YORK — Growing up in Brooklyn, Garrett Goble dreamed of being a police officer. But as he got older and started a family, he decided law enforcement was too dangerous. Instead, he found a job as a subway train operator — a much safer option, he thought.

Danger found him anyway.

As Goble pulled his No. 2 train into a station along the northern edge of Central Park early Friday, he heard the train’s conductor yell that there was heavy smoke and fire in the front of the train, one car away from where Goble sat.

In a mad dash, he and the conductor rushed to evacuate passengers as fire consumed the car. His colleague then managed to escape the smoke-filled station.

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But Goble did not. When emergency workers arrived, they found him lying unconscious on the tracks, officials said. They believe he was trying to flee from the burning train into the subway tunnel when he was overcome by smoke and collapsed.

Goble, 36, was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. Investigators think the fire was started intentionally.

“I wouldn’t have expected it to be any different,” said Earl Holland, 59, his longtime neighbor, after hearing reports that Goble was trying to save passengers.

“Being a motorman on a train is like being the captain of a ship,” Holland added. “It doesn’t go down without you trying to save everyone on board.”

Police investigators said that the fire, which broke out around 3:15 a.m., might be connected to two other fires in Manhattan early Friday: one at the 86th Street station on the No. 1 line, and another at the 96th Street station on the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 lines.

A third fire on the street level was reported later in the morning at the 116th Street station on the Nos. 2 and 3 lines.

Seventeen other people, including five firefighters, were injured in the blaze, according to a spokesman for the New York Fire Department.

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News of the fatal incident shook the community of transit workers — two other colleagues died in the last two days after contracting the coronavirus — and devastated Goble’s family and friends.

“He was an excellent father and a good man, and anyone who knew him would love him,” said Katherine Gray, his longtime neighbor. “We’re going to miss him terribly.”

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