NYC Subway Savior Recalls Narrow Escape

The Associated Press
Wednesday, January 3, 2007; 8:04 PM

NEW YORK -- In hindsight, jumping in front of an oncoming subway train may not have been the smartest move Wesley Autrey has ever made.

"It's all hitting me now," Autrey said Wednesday, a day after he saved the life of a young man who had fallen down onto the tracks by pushing him into a gap between the rails. "I'm looking, and these trains are coming in now. ... Wow, you did something pretty stupid."

But even knowing that he had a narrow escape from injury or death, the 50-year-old Manhattanite doesn't regret his choice.

"I did something to save someone's life," the Navy veteran said.

The father of three was lauded Wednesday for his quick thinking and even quicker reflexes. Waiting for a downtown train on Tuesday, he saw Cameron Hollopeter, a 19-year-old film student, suffering from some kind of medical problem. After stumbling down the platform, Hollopeter, of Littleton, Mass., fell onto the tracks with a train on its way into the station.

Autrey, traveling with his two young daughters, knew he had to do something.

He jumped down to the tracks and rolled with the young man into the trough between the rails as a southbound No. 1 train came into the station.

The trough, used for drainage, is typically about 12 inches deep but can be as shallow as 8 or as deep as 24.

The train's operator saw someone on the tracks and put the emergency brakes on. Before the train came to a stop, two cars passed over the men _ with about 2 inches to spare, Autrey said.

Hollopeter's stepmother, Rachel Hollopeter, said Autrey was "an angel."

"He was so heroic," she said in a telephone interview. "If he wasn't there, this would be a whole different call."

Autrey stopped by the hospital Wednesday afternoon for a visit with Hollopeter and his family. Afterward, he and Hollopeter's father addressed reporters.

"Mr. Autrey's instinctive and unselfish act saved our son's life," Larry Hollopeter said, his voice choking up. "There are no words to properly express our gratitude and feelings for his actions."

The unusual rescue brought the media horde to Autrey, who spent the day doing interviews. He planned to make the rounds of the morning television shows on Thursday, tape an appearance on David Letterman's "Late Show" and visit City Hall to be honored by the mayor.

Autrey's mother was beaming Wednesday.

"It was dangerous, what he done, but I'm proud of him that God had him in the right place at the right time so he could help somebody," Mary Autrey said. "That's our upbringing, helping people."

© 2007 The Associated Press