One of the victims of Sunday’s train derailment in the Bronx was a nurse living in Woodside who cared for children after immigrating to the United States from South Korea and was known as “an exceptional person."
Kisook Ahn, 35, was the youngest of the four people killed in the accident, which also injured more than 60 as a southbound Metro North train left the tracks near the Spuyten Duyvil station at about 7:20 a.m. The federal government says the train was going 82 miles an hour around a curved section of track where the limit is 30, reportedly because the engineer had dozed off.
Ahn was a registered nurse who worked at the Sunshine Children’s Home and Rehab Center in upstate Ossining and had completed a program to become a family nurse practictioner.
A wake for her has tentatively been set for 8 p.m. Friday at Central Funeral Home in Flushing, and her funeral will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Sebastian Roman Catholic Church in Woodside, according to Sheldon Meikle, the director for international nurses at Perfect Choice Staffing of Woodbury, LI, which sponsored Ahn’s immigration here.
“She was an exceptional person,” Meikle said. “Anywhere she worked, people had good things to say about her. She was the epitome of a nurse. She was very caring and loving, and she cared more for others than for herself.”
It was Meikle who had to identify Ahn’s body and notify her family in South Korea. His company had offered to pay their travel expenses, but then the Metropolitan Transportation Agency covered those, he said. The family arrived at Kennedy Airport Wednesday.
Before her current posting at Sunshine, her second one there, Ahn had worked in the pediatric unit at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, from July 2011 to December 2012. She had earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from Lehman College in the Bronx, in 2009 and 2012, respectively.
“We are completely stunned and saddened by today’s news,” Catherine Alicia Georges, chairwoman of Lehman’s Nursing Department, said in a statement when the college learned of Ahn’s death. “Kisook was a model student, who did well in both her undergraduate and graduate programs.”
Myung Sook Cho, president of the Greater New York Korean Nurses Association, also had only positive things to say about Ahn.
“I admired her,” Cho said. “She was there whenever we asked her to do something, and even though she had a tough time adjusting to America, she always had a smile on her face.”
Cho explained that by “a tough time adjusting to America,” she meant that Ahn had to balance work, school and a long commute — all so that she could stay in the country and get the green card that members of the nurses’ group said she was on the verge of receiving.
“It’s so sad she had to go through such a tremendous accident and lose her life,” said Cho, who like her organization’s members, immigrated to the United States from Korea. “She was so young; she was 35 years old. We are very sad at the nurses association.”
Ahn’s closest friends could not be reached for comment about the kind of person she was, but her Facebook page showed that she had changed her profile photo to one of yellow roses, a symbol of friendship, in early November. It also showed that she had visited the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Museum of Art in early August.
The Woodside resident was the youngest victim of the accident, which derailed the 5:54 a.m. train from Poughkeepsie. The other people killed were all upstate residents: Donna Smith, 54, of Newburgh; James Lovell, 58, of Cold Spring; and James Ferrari, 59, of Montrose.
“The MTA extends its deepest sympathies to the families of the victims,” the agency said in a statement, adding that it is “fully cooperating with the investigation being conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board.”
Borough President Helen Marshall also issued a statement expressing her condolences to those who knew the victims.
“I cannot even begin to comprehend the grief Ms. Ahn’s family and friends must be feeling right now,” Marshall said. “Ms. Ahn came to America looking for a better life, and unfortunately her life was taken away from her much too soon.”