By Jon Schuppe
INWOOD — A subway elevator operator was found dead in the rain near his Inwood home with a wound in the back of his head Tuesday morning, leaving authorities to figure out what killed him.
Patrick Renaghan, 71, was returning home from his night shift at the A train’s 190th Street station when he died, MTA officials said. He was found by a passerby on the sidewalk of Seaman Avenue,near the bottom of a well-traveled slope in Isham Park, about three blocks from his West 215th Street apartment.
Paramedics arrived and confirmed that he was dead. A police spokesman said Tuesday afternoon that there "does not appear any criminality" in regard to his death.
For several hours afterward, his covered body remained on the sidewalk, face up, dressed in rain gear, boots and gloves. His open umbrella and lunch bag lay nearby.
Investigators worked through driving rain to examine the scene, on Seaman Avenue between Isham Street and W. 214th Street. The medical examiner’s office arrived after noon and took his body away.
An autopsy to determine what caused his death is expected to be completed Wednesday.
Mary Witkowski, the superintendent of Renaghan’s apartment building, said he had suffered from heart problems. He had been to the doctor a lot lately, and his wife, Julia, regularly walked him to the subway for the start of his 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift, she said. “They were always together. I know it’s gotta be killing her.”
Renaghan was a quiet man who lived for at least 20 years in the building but only socialized with a few neighbors, she said. “Go to work, go home, watch TV. That was him.”
Witkowski said she went to the scene to identify Renaghan’s body so that his wife didn’t have to. She noticed that Renaghan’s wallet was still on him, she said.
Julia Renaghan could not be reached for comment. Witkowski said she was staying with relatives.
MTA spokeswoman Dierdre Parker said Renaghan started with the agency in 1982. His job title was station cleaner, but his job was operating elevators in subway stations.
"This is a tragic day and our prayers go out to his family and friends," Parker said.
In Renaghan’s Inwood neighborhood, news of his death sparked fears that he was a victim of a crime. The area has been the scene of several early-morning muggings in recent months, with most victims walking through the park on their way to the A-train subway station on Broadway. The attacks prompted several local residents to form a citizens patrol group.