More than a dozen New York commuters were sickened Tuesday morning after a bank robber fled into a lower Manhattan subway station and his bag of loot exploded, sending red dye and toxic fumes into the air, police said. The drama began at 9:25 a.m., when a man armed with a note strolled into an HSBC branch on West 14th Street. He passed a threatening written demand for cash to a teller, was handed an undisclosed amount of money and ran out of the bank, fleeing into the Union Square subway station.
A dye pack hidden inside the money detonated near the turnstiles, spraying the surrounding area and people with a red fluid and filling the air with noxious fumes and causing panic, cops said. In the chaos the robber escaped. Dye packs are commonly used by financial institutions to deter robberies. Last year, bank robberies sky-rocketed, leading Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to urge banks to install Plexiglas screens, make security surveillance cameras visible and post guards inside. Since then, bank robberies have dropped.