A new documentary is taking a look at deaths in the subway system, and NY1 transit reporter Jose Martinez spoke to the filmmaker whose project focuses on the workers and witnesses who've seen it up close.
Nearly 500 people have died since 2003 after being hit by a train or coming into contact with the third rail. Fifty-five of those deaths were in the last year alone.
Filmmaker Janelle Ryan set out to make a documentary about the subway operators who've seen it happen or have even been at the controls when a train struck and killed someone.
"A lot of them have flashbacks," Ryan said. "A lot of them can't sleep. They end up needing medication to continue working."
Titled "12:9," which is the transit code for passenger under a train, the half-hour documentary examines the impact of subway deaths on transit workers and on those who've witnessed or survived them.
"For the deceased, it's over for them. They have passed on," Ryan said. "But for people who witness it, it's just beginning."
Ryan said she started the film project after her boyfriend saw a woman hit and killed by a train in Brooklyn.
Equipped with a small camera, she's created a film that's taken her all over the city and made her all too familiar with tragic tales that don't always make headlines.
Ryan said she realizes that the subject of her documentary is morbid, but she said the stories of the workers and the witnesses are worth telling.
"My number one goal is awareness," she said.
The project has changed the way she gets around on the subway.
"I would travel between the train cars. I would hold the doors to try to get into the train, even if it was about to leave. I would stand on the edge," she said. "But now, I don't do any of that anymore."
Her hope now is to get the same reaction from viewers who ride the trains. She plans to release the documentary on the Internet next month in the hopes that it goes viral.