Video: New Yorker risks life to save stranger

updated 1/3/2007 1:01:55 PM ET 2007-01-03T18:01:55

Wesley Autrey faced a harrowing choice as he tried to rescue a teenager who fell off a platform onto a subway track in front of an approaching train: Struggle to hoist him back up to the platform in time, or take a chance on finding safety under the train.

At first, he tried to pull the young man up, but he was afraid he wouldn’t make it in time and they would both be killed.

“So I just chose to dive on top of him and pin him down,” he said.

Autrey and the teen landed in the drainage trough between the rails Tuesday as a southbound No. 1 train entered the 137th Street/City College station.

The train’s operator saw them on the tracks and applied the emergency brakes.

Two cars passed over the men — with about 2 inches to spare, Autrey said. The troughs are typically about 12 inches deep but can be as shallow as 8 or as deep as 24, New York City Transit officials said.

Relatives identified the teen as Cameron Hollopeter of Littleton, Mass., a student at the New York Film Academy.

Police cited Hollopeter's age to the Associated Press as 19; other news sources gave conflicting numbers.

Hollopeter’s stepmother, Rachel Hollopeter, said Autrey was “an angel.”

“He was so heroic,” she said early Wednesday in a telephone interview. “If he wasn’t there, this would be a whole different call.”

Authorities said Hollopeter had suffered a medical problem, but was in stable condition at a hospital.

Autrey, 50, of Manhattan, declined medical attention.

Autrey had been waiting for a train with his two young daughters. After the train stopped, he heard bystanders scream and yelled out: “We’re OK down here, but I’ve got two daughters up there. Let them know their father’s OK,” The New York Times reported.

While spectators cheered Autrey, hugged him and hailed him as a hero, he didn’t see it that way.

“I don’t feel like I did something spectacular; I just saw someone who needed help,” he told the Times. “I did what I felt was right.”

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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