Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wesley Autrey — Subway Track Hero

Wesley Autrey — Subway Track Hero
New York City Cheers Death-Defying Rescuer

NEW YORK — A day after he jumped into the path of a subway train to save the life of a stranger, Wesley Autrey got a $5,000 reward, a day off and universal acclaim in a city where you supposedly don't speak to people you don't know, let alone rescue them.
"I just tried to do the right thing," said the 50-year-old Harlem construction worker.

"It ain't about being a hero, it was just being there and helping the next person. That's all I did."

On Tuesday afternoon Autrey leaped down from a subway station platform after Cameron Hollopeter, 20, apparently suffered a seizure and fell between the tracks.

Autrey had to leave his two daughters, ages 4 and 6, on the platform. It was that, he said, or have the girls see a man run over by a subway train.

Down on the tracks, Autrey saw a train's headlights in the tunnel. He shoved the disoriented student into the only space where they had a chance to survive — the shallow, grimy drainage trough between the tracks.

The train passed over them, with about 2 inches' clearance. Autrey later showed reporters grease stains on his wool hat that he said came from the train's undercarriage.

On Wednesday Autrey got the day off from work at a Brooklyn construction site and visited the New York Film Academy, where Hollopeter is a student.

"We don't have a red carpet, but we gave him a red carpet reception," said Anita Tovich, one of Hollopeter's professors. Jerry Sherlock, director of the school, presented Autrey with a check for $5,000.

The school also promised Autrey's daughters scholarships to the school when they're older.

"Here and all over the world, people are struck by this unselfish, heroic act," Sherlock said. "With so much evil in the world, it gives everyone hope."

"You're one in a million," he told Autrey, "and this is your 15 minutes of fame."

The city's tabloids celebrated Autrey. "SUBWAY ANGEL'S DAREDEVIL LEAP" headlined the New York Post. The Daily News hailed the "SUBWAY SUPERMAN." Autrey is scheduled to be on network news programs this morning and CBS' Late Show with David Letterman tonight.

Autrey gave this account: He was in the station in upper Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon when Hollopeter, also waiting on the platform, seemed to collapse during a seizure. Autrey used a pen to get Hollopeter's tongue out of his throat. Hollopeter stood up, then staggered and fell between the tracks.

As the train neared, Autrey pinned Hollopeter in the trough by lying on top of him, face to face. But the student kept struggling. "Don't move!" Autrey said. "Or one of us is going to lose a leg."

Subway car brakes screeched. One car passed overhead, then a second. Then came silence, followed by the wailing from the platform of his daughters, who'd just seen their father run over.

"We're OK," Autrey yelled to bystanders on the platform. "I got two daughters up there. Let 'em know their father's OK!"

"Who are you?" asked Hollopeter.

"Someone who saved your life," replied Autrey.

They waited 20 minutes until technicians turned off power on the subway's high-voltage third rail and were helped out.

Hollopeter remained hospitalized Wednesday in stable condition, recovering from cuts and bruises.

A relative, Jeff Friedman, told reporters that although Hollopeter is quite talented, "even he couldn't write the screenplay any better." — The Associated Press

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