NEW YORK (PIX11) – Since it’s a mode of transportation that carries more than 4.3 million people every day, there’s no shortage of New Yorkers or visitors to our city who wonder what would happen if they fell onto the subway tracks.
One New York City woman did not have to wonder, after she was run over by three subway trains, one after the other, and survived. What saved her life was discussed one on one in detail with PIX11 News by another veteran of being run over by a train.
“I think if all New Yorkers take that approach of lying in trough between the tracks,” said the man called the Subway Superman, Wesley Autry, “if you fall and lie still… nothing will happen to you.”
Autry earned his moniker by rescuing a stranger from a fall onto the tracks in January 2007. He spoke with PIX11 News about an incident involving Mary Downey, 22, a Queens resident who fell onto the tracks at the 49th Street N, Q and R train stop around 6:00 Sunday morning.
Investigators said she had been drinking before falling onto the tracks, and the fall badly injured her left shoulder. That injury, in turn, prevented her from being able to push or pull herself up from the tracks at the station that has very few passengers that time of day.
What happened next, though, whether she did it by accident or intentionally, is exemplary, as Autry, the subway hero, pointed out.
“All New Yorkers,” he said, “under the train is the safest way to go.” In fact, Downey ended up in the space between the tracks and under the train on the uptown side of the station.
That was when the first train ran over her. Two more trains followed, and it appears that when the last of three trains came, Downey had managed to move into the space under the subway platform.
Obviously, she survived, but Autry said that was more a stroke of luck than anything else. When he rescued Cameron Hollopeter, 20, on January 7, 2007, Autry laid on top of the young man who had just collapsed, in the trough between the tracks of the 137th Street station on the 1 train.
“We was in a space 21 inches,” said Autry. “We took up a space 20 and-a-half [inches].”
He said that since that amount of space could accommodate two fully grown men, that almost anyone of any size could survive under the train.
Autry has very publicly encouraged safety since the 2007 heroic incident, and was cited by then-president George W. Bush for his bravery, as well as by just about every public official below that office. Autry is still regularly recognized by admirers for his heroics. In fact, while PIX11 interviewed him Monday, two different MTA workers approached him to shake his hand, as did a couple of local residents, in separate visits.
By contrast, Mary Downey is not making any public statements, despite her remarkable ordeal.
Autrey said that her odds for survival would have increased if she had remained between the tracks, rather than having moved under the platform, as some rescuers had said she’d done.
Under the platform, according to Autry, a person is potentially exposed to the trains electronics. “You could get fried,” he told PIX11 News. “I say better to wake up a chicken than to be a dead duck.”