Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Motorwoman Saves Rider on Subway Tracks by Joseph Mollica, Larry Celona and Tom Namako -

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A quick-thinking MTA motorwoman saved a man’s life after he jumped on the tracks to pick up a dropped bag today, gesturing for him to "get down" under the platform as her M train came barreling in to the Queens station, witnesses and sources said.

The dramatic events unfolded at the Woodhaven Blvd. stop around 1:45 p.m. today, when New Jersey resident Joseph Pientek, 55, foolishly leapt to the tracks to retrieve a bag.

But he was caught like a deer in the headlights when he realized he couldn’t get back up to the platform as the train came chugging into the station, witnesses and sources said.

When the veteran operator, Crystal McCray, spotted him with little time to spare, she frantically motioned for him to retreat into the small space under the platform, the sources and witnesses said.

Pientek made the move just in time, and McCray, who would have been moving at about 30 miles-per-hour slammed on her brakes, sources said.

"She did the right thing. That’s your best chance to live. It seems like she saved the day," said conductor Ralph Cabrera, who was familiar with the incident.

As he cowered in the space, three 85,000-pound subway cars narrowly passed him by before the train came to a screeching halt.

"I remember falling down then getting back up. It was so confusing, so many people were telling me what to do. I feel like I won the lottery," Pientek said from his bed at the Elmhurst hospital emergency room.

Rescue crews rushed to the scene, and per usual protocol, said the train should not be moved.

Instead, the FDNY workers slipped Pientek under the train, then up between two cars, and strapped him to a gurney inside the M subway where riders would usually sit.

They then scrambled up the stairs and out of the station, bringing Pientek to the hospital, where he was treated for shock but no physical injuries.

McCray, who just began her 12th year on the job, was shaken after the incident, and taken to an MTA facility to be drug an alcohol tested — a routine matter in near-miss incidents.

"She does not consider herself to be a hero. She’s just extremely happy he was not hurt," her supervisor said.