MIDWOOD – Longtime community activist and MTA train conductor Benjamin Schaeffer, who once evacuated a train after someone poured gasoline on the floor of one of the cars, died yesterday from the coronavirus. He was 58.
Schaeffer had been on the ventilator at Maimonides Medical Center fighting for his life. His doctors had recommended an experimental treatment called “Convalescent Plasma,” according to TWU Local 100, of which he was a member. Unfortunately, he died before a matching plasma donor could be located.
Lisa Smid, his girlfriend of 10 years, told Bklyner, “Among many other things, he was an auxiliary police officer, train historian, author, and the love of my life.”
“It is especially heartbreaking when a man who has given so much to the Union as an officer passes. Brother Schaeffer truly lived our founder Mike Quill’s words, when he said, ‘You must invest part of yourself’ in the Union. Ben made that investment in TWU Local 100 and this will always be remembered,” TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano said of their colleague.
Schaeffer’s quick reaction saved thousands of lives after somebody poured gasoline on the floor of one of the subway cars back in 2018. But that did not surprise his friends and neighbors. Nathan Thompson, the secretary of the 70 Precinct Community Council, gave this description of Schaeffer: “Ben is a very down to earth person. It figures he would dispense with any ritual and cut to the chase of getting people off the train. He is a soft-spoken, but a no-nonsense guy. So we are not surprised, just proud.”
“Recent stats from NYC hospitals have shown an extremely high mortality rate for COVID-19 patients on vents,” Rapid Transit Operations Vice President Eric Loegel said this about the 22+ year veteran train conductor. “It was a long shot, but still, he had a shot. Ben’s family was so grateful for the outpouring of support for their son. Everybody was pulling for them. It broke my heart when I got that call from Mr. Schaeffer yesterday. I called it an ‘early night’ after that.”
“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone,” he added.