NJ Transit Worker Suspended After NBC 4 New York Captures Drunk Man Directing Traffic
A homeless man who admits he was drunk says he was being paid by the worker to direct traffic
A man who doesn't work for New Jersey Transit but directed traffic at a bus lot in midtown while wearing an orange agency vest was regularly drunk on the job, possibly endangering commuters and pedestrians until NBC 4 New York began to investigate. Jonathan Vigliotti reports. (Published Wednesday, May 22, 2013)
Updated at 4:58 PM EST on Wednesday, May 22, 2013
An NJ Transit worker at a midtown bus lot has been suspended after NBC 4 New York captured footage of a drunk man directing traffic there, who said he was being paid by the worker to perform the duty.
NBC 4 New York's cameras caught the drunk man, who was wearing an NJ Transit coat, drinking while at his post outside the 37th Street lot. Moments later, he left and hid behind a portable toilet to drink something concealed in a brown paper bag. And instead of returning to work, he headed down the block to a liquor store.
Later he directed commuter buses in and out of the lot, using a red flag, while another NJ Transit worker at the lot, later identified as Max Caramas, slept in a bus.
When NBC 4 New York confronted the drinking man, he admitted he was drunk and took a drink from a vodka bottle on camera.
He identified himself as Hector Santiago, and said he is homeless and an alcoholic. He said Caramas was paying him to direct buses. Santiago said Caramas is his "supervisor" and "boss."
NJ Transit told NBC 4 New York that Santiago is not an employee and is not supposed to be directing traffic. Officials could not say how he wound up with the job but said he would be removed immediately.
NJ Transit said in a follow-up on Wednesday that Caramas has been suspended.
When NBC 4 New York talked to Caramas. he first denied knowing Santiago, and when asked why he would allow the drunk man to direct traffic, he said: "I don't allow anything. I'm just a driver."
He later admitted he is a bus driver who "sometimes" directs traffic at the lot. When asked whether he was paying Santiago to do his job, Caramas declined comment. He later said he only wanted to help out Santiago.