Murder Charge for Suspect in New York City Subway Fire

Avinger is accused of setting fire to a shopping cart aboard a No. 2 train.
New York City firefighters assemble at a subway station in New York, Friday, March 27, 2020. Officials say a New York City subway driver was killed and several other people were injured early Friday in a train fire that is being investigated as a crime. (Marc A. Hermann/MTA New York City Transit via AP)

Motorman killed in March fire in Harlem

A man accused of setting a train fire that killed a New York City subway driver in March told police he was on the train, had a disposable lighter and set paper on fire but not the “big fire,” according to court documents released after his arraignment Saturday on murder and arson charges.

Nathaniel Avinger was also seen on subway station video walking away from the front of the train where the fire was located, and then exiting the station, according to court documents, which identified him as 49 years old. Police on Friday said he was 50.

A message was left seeking comment with Avinger’s attorney, Marnie Zien from The Legal Aid Society.

Detectives linked Avinger to the fatal blaze after he was arrested Wednesday, accused of groping a transit worker in Brooklyn, authorities said. The New York Post reported Avinger was charged in that case with forcible touching and third-degree sexual abuse and was awaiting arraignment in that case. He’s been charged with one count of second-degree murder and one count of fourth-degree arson in connection with the deadly subway fire.

Avinger, who is scheduled to appear again in court on Dec. 23, is accused of setting fire to a shopping cart aboard a No. 2 train as it pulled into the 110th Street station in Harlem, near Central Park, around 3 a.m. on March 27.

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The motorman, 36-year-old Garrett Goble, died after he and another transit employee helped passengers escape to safety, officials said. His body was found on the tracks. Several people were hurt.

Fires were also reported at around the same time at three nearby stations — 86th Street, 96th Street and 116th Street, officials said.

The New York Post reported Avinger was recently charged with setting a March 11 blaze outside of a Columbia University Computer Music Center on 125th Street.

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