December 7th, 2012
01:20 AM ET

Subway Photographer: 'It's chilling to me'

In an exclusive primetime interview, the freelance photographer for the N.Y. Post who snapped pictures showing a man facing death on the tracks of a New York City Subway defends himself and details the scene.

R. Umar Abbasi entered the subway platform as a train was approaching and saw Ki Suk Han on the tracks. In the moment, his instinct was to draw attention to the man on the tracks by using his flash to alert the conductor. Mr. Abbasi did not see what photos his camera was capturing at the time, the settings were not even set for use inside the subway. He says, "It wasn't important to get the photograph. The photograph came out as a result of my effort or what I could think at that moment to do. Even at this moment I think, you know, I wish I had the presence of mind to say 'Mr. Han run in the other direction!' I did hear people saying 'Get up, Get up,' but I don't know why anyone did not reach out."

Mr. Abbasi ran towards Mr. Han and was approached by the suspect who is accused of pushing him onto the tracks, "He seemed agitated and as he was approaching he was cursing, using profanities. And he went by me. And I saw him coming; I braced myself, and stood on the side." Mr. Abbasi feared that the suspect would also push him onto the tracks.

The photographer responds to his critics. "They were not there, I look at them as armchair critics, and when you're in a situation you realize what it is, and it was a very fluid situation. The photographs are still. You see the train and you see Mr. Han's at one spot but in reality the train is moving towards him. I do not know what speed it is, but it was really fast. The whole thing happened really, really fast." Mr. Abbasi describes what he saw as traumatic, "It’s like every time if I have to narrate the whole thing, it's reliving it." The photographer says he lives "with the image." He was not able to sleep that first night without hearing the sounds of what happened. "Mr. Han did not scream or anything; this is how fast it transpired."

R. Umar Abbasi says now that he has had time to reflect on the tragedy, he wishes that he could have known more about the platform's length and seen all of the details that are within his images, so he could have advised Mr. Han to run the other direction, “On it there were only about three cars into the station, and all he had to do was outrun three cars and he would have lived."

When Mr. Abassi looks at his photographs from that day, it is chilling to him. "It is like a man looking at his end. And the oncoming train, the metaphor for it, death staring him down."

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Filed under: Exclusive • New York City
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. martin2176

    after watching the interview..I feel he has explained very very well his side of the story and I believe what he said.
    All the critics from the comfort of their homes..there were many other people who could have helped and far closer to the victim distance wise..just because they did not shoot a picture absolves them and puts the blame on this guy..

    December 9, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
  2. Ezo

    We can question the photographer's supposed lack of assistance adnaseum. However, for me, the issue here has less to do with this photographer taking the photo and more to do with the Post's decision to publish it.

    December 9, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  3. Banbo

    "his instinct was to draw attention to the man on the tracks by using his flash to alert the conductor". I am sorry but I believe that that is absolute non-sense. Why not make big motions with your hands rather than take the time to pull out your camera? I understand that being a photographer, the camera has become the extension of his hand, but I believe that being one (photographer), he saw that as an opportunity to capture a "scoop". He might not have been able to save Mr. Han but please "drawing attention by using your flash to alert the conductor"

    December 7, 2012 at 8:14 am |
  4. lynn candy

    It is true no one knows what they would do until they are in that situation, The pictures i saw on CNN i do see the light in the distance, him in the middle of the track but the picture that really got my attention was the one with his hand on the top of the ledge, no one would have had to go on the track to get him all they had to do is grab his hand and arm it might have broke or pulled his arm out the socket but he could have been pulled up, the fact that so many people were there yes i do believe that he could have been pulled up the worst would be when they pulled him up his feet would be cut off because they did not get his whole body up in time but they should have tried......nobody tried.

    December 7, 2012 at 2:36 am |
    • Agnim

      Stop saying "nobody tried"!

      People were waving to the driver!
      People were urging the deceased to run!

      Stop saying nobody tried!
      People did what they could!

      No matter how much they may care, NOT EVERYONE is going to be brave enough to put their lives on the line to save another; those are of a special breed.

      And for sure, not everyone is as brave as an at-home arm-chair critic.

      NOT SURRENDERING CONSCIOUSNESS TO DRUGS, would have had him in a better position to help himself.
      Having a place for mentally-defective people, besides walking around in the subway, would have helped too.

      December 9, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  5. bettyann

    Why don't drivers look for people laying on the track when they get close to platforms?

    December 7, 2012 at 1:39 am |
    • Victor

      They can't. It's not like these trains are moving at snails pace – they enter the station typically at around 40mph. The tracks are also rather poorly lit since this happened underground.

      December 9, 2012 at 10:29 pm |