A New Jersey woman plunged to her death from an escalator early Saturday while stretching to grab her twin sister’s falling hat inside the Oculus transit hub, cops said.
The sibling watched helplessly as Jenny Santos, 29, fell nearly 40 feet from an upper level to the sparkling Italian marble floor of the $4.4 billion facility around 5:30 a.m., authorities said.
Santos, of Kearny, N.J., managed to snag the wayward hat in midair before tumbling to her death over the escalator railing inside the towering lower Manhattan structure.
Her sister accidentally dropped the hat as the pair headed for home inside the nearly empty Oculus about 90 minutes before sunrise, sources said.
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Santos was still clutching the headwear as she dropped toward the floor, sources said.
“She somehow fell over the side,” said a law enforcement source. “It’s pretty tragic.”
Cops, based on the time of Santos’ fall, were investigating whether alcohol played a role in the death, according to sources.
The mortally injured woman’s sister Jessica rode with Santos to Bellevue Hospital, and two Port Authority police officers were with the surviving sister when a doctor broke the news of her death, sources said.
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Jessica, who was uninjured, was treated for trauma and released from the same hospital. A police source shot down a report that the surviving sister had playfully thrown the hat before the fatal fall.
“Very sad to hear the passing of one of the kindest, most beautiful people I have had the honor of meeting,” a friend posted on Facebook.
“R.I.P. Jenny Santos. All of my prayers and condolences go out to Jessica and Amanda and the rest of the family.”
11 photos view gallery Inside the Oculus structure at the WTC hub
The Saturday morning tragedy was the first death at the sprawling Oculus since its long-delayed opening last year — a decade later than expected.
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“Very sad,” the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association tweeted. “Our thoughts & prayers are with her family.”
Santos, a graduate of William Paterson University, was a phys ed, health and driver’s education instructor, according to her LinkedIn page. She had previously worked in the Lyndhurst, N.J., school system.
She was an avid traveler whose stops included the Czech Republic, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.
A web profile posted by Santos noted that she tried to “experience as much outdoor adventure as possible, especially during the spring and summer seasons.”
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She was also a member of the Bergen County Rowing Academy, according to coach Clemens Reinke.
“Just yesterday she was with us — Jenny was coaching our winter team, training team in strength training, and you say goodbye like you normally do, expecting to see her again,” Reinke told ABC-7.
The Santos siblings headed into the Oculus on a chilly weekend morning from Greenwich St. on the west side of the building.
The turnstiles to the PATH trains to New Jersey are two levels below and reachable via the escalators high above the hard marble floors.
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While police provided no details on the events preceding the tragedy, the PATH trains run all night and the town of Kearny is adjacent to the train station in Harrison, N.J.
The striking white transit hub, designed by Santiago Calatrava, was constructed to replace the terminal destroyed in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.
The complex now connects the PATH trains with 11 subway lines and hosts a high-end, two-level shopping mall along with chef Mario Batali’s latest incarnation of his restaurant Eataly.
The winged structure, with its soaring glass ceiling, hosts 300,000 daily commuters. Its main lobby, stretching across 350 feet, is larger than a football field and flanked by retail outlets.
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While this was the first death inside the Oculus, there was already one birth.
A woman went into labor last October, giving birth to a girl with the assistance of two Port Authority police officers.Send a Letter to the Editor