Chinese student in subway terror attack

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 July, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 July, 1993, 12:00am

A CHINESE student has survived the nightmare ordeal of being pushed in front of a New York subway train - because her assailant thought she was ''white''.

A row erupted after Cheng Hui, a music student from China, and another New York resident were pushed on to the track by a woman who had only recently been released by police after a similar attack in May.

Questions are being asked about how 37-year-old Eloise Ellis was allowed to go free on bail after being charged with attempted murder on May 7 for pushing a 44-year-old Hispanic woman in front of a subway train at 110th Street station.

She struck again twice last week, pushing a 32-year-old white male on to the track at the same station, then did the same 20 minutes later, attacking Ms Cheng, 31, at nearby 96th Street station.

Ellis, who is black, later told police she had pushed Ms Cheng on to the track because ''she was white''.

''Obviously something's wrong with this woman,'' said a police officer on the case. ''You don't keep pushing people in front of trains unless there's something bugging you.'' A Transit Police spokesman said Ms Cheng's escape was miraculous.

''She was on the track just as the train was approaching, but transit police were patrolling the station and managed to stop the train, using their flashlights. Thank God they were there in time.'' Ms Cheng, who moved to Manhattan from China four years ago, went to hospital with severe head and neck injuries but was released later. She is teaching Chinese for a living after taking a music degree at Brooklyn College, and feared the incident would bankrupt her.

''The scariest thing is not having insurance. People said the city might help, but I don't know.'' She may sue the transit authority in a bid to recover her expenses.

She said she had not yet told her family in China, and did not want to worry them.

The Manhattan district attorney has admitted mistakes were made in Ellis' case. She has a stream of drug-and violence-related convictions going back to 1973.

Ellis was released from jail pending charges from the May attack, while her lawyer demanded a psychiatric report.

''In light of yesterday's events, it was a mistake not to indict [her] properly,'' said a statement from the district attorney's office.