Post photographer defends taking photo of subway victim: ‘No way I could’ve rescued’ him

Dylan Stableford
The Lookout

The photographer who shot the New York Post's controversial front-page photo of a man about to be killed by an oncoming subway train defended his actions on Wednesday, saying there was "no way" he could have saved the victim.

"The only thing I could think of at that time was to try and alert the driver [of the train] with my camera flash," R. Umar Abbasi, a freelance photographer, said in an interview with the "Today" show.

Abbasi was on another assignment for the tabloid on Monday when he saw Ki Suk Han, a 58-year-old from Queens, N.Y., hurled from the 49th Street station platform onto the tracks by a man who seemed to be deranged.

"From the periphery of my eye I saw a body fly onto the tracks," Abbasi said. "There was a collective gasp, and that caught my total attention."

The photographer said he fired off his flash 49 times. "If you look carefully into the eyes of the conductor you see two lights," Abbasi continued. "I think those are my flash lights that are being reflected."

Terrence Legree, the train's motorman, told the Daily News he frantically tried to activate the emergency brakes."I saw the guy, and I did what I was trained to do," Legree said. "You're hopeful you're going to stop, but you don't have control of the train at that point."

Han was struck by the downtown Q train. He was taken to St. Luke's Hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Witnesses told that Han struggled for about a minute to pull himself up before being hit.

"What really surprises me is the people who were 100 feet or 150 feet away from Mr. Han did not reach out to help him," Abbasi said. "The people standing near the 50th street exit could have grabbed him and moved him."

The Post splashed Abbasi's photo on its front page on Tuesday above the headline, "DOOMED. "Pushed on the subway track, this man is about to die," the paper declared. The cover drew intense criticism from readers, fellow journalists and Han's family.

"They are shocked," Charen Kim, a lawyer for Han's wife and daughter, told the Daily News. "They can't believe that their father's picture is out there, about to get hit by a train."

"That is not my decision," Abbasi said of the paper's decision to publish his photo on the cover. "I was on assignment—all the images were provided to the Post. I don't control what image is used, how it is used [or] how it is presented."

Abbasi, who was not paid by the "Today" show for the interview, said he has already licensed some of the photos he shot during the incident. He added: "If this thing happened again, with the same circumstances, whether I had a camera or not and I was running toward him there is no way I could've rescued Mr. Han."

The man police believe pushed Han, Naeem Davis, was charged with Han's murder on Wednesday. The 30-year-old was taken into police custody on Tuesday near Rockefeller Center in midtown.