Tabloid photographer R. Umar Abbasi says he could not have saved subway victim
The tabloid news photographer whose pictures of a man thrown into the path of a New York City subway train unleashed a maelstrom of criticism said on Wednesday that he was too far from the victim to offer help.
R. Umar Abbasi, a freelance photographer for the New York Post, said he rapidly shot dozens of frames using his flash in a vain effort to alert the train driver to the presence of the stunned victim on the tracks on Monday afternoon.
Seconds later the train struck and killed Ki Suk Han, 58, as he tried to pull himself back up to the platform at the 49th Street station, an incident that has struck a nerve in a city where getting jostled by strangers on crowded subway platforms is a daily occurrence. Han lived in the New York City borough of Queens.
“My condolences to the family, and if I could have, I would have pulled Mr. Han out,” Abbasi said on NBC’s “Today” show.
The Post, no stranger to controversy over headlines and stories, sparked greater outrage than usual on Tuesday when it featured one of Abbasi’s photographs on its front page.
It showed Han trying to pull himself from the tracks and looking into the lights of the oncoming train with the headlines “DOOMED” and “Pushed on the subway track, this man is about to die.”
Police were investigating a suspect brought in for questioning on Tuesday who “implicated himself in the incident,” according to New York City Police Department spokesman Paul Browne. Police have not identified the suspect, but the Post identified him as Naeem Davis, a 30-year-old street vendor also from Queens.
In a first-person account the Post published on Wednesday, Abbasi said the incident “was one of the most horrible things I have ever seen, to watch that man dying there.
“I didn’t even know at all that I had even captured the images in such detail.”
Abbasi also took a New York Times reporter back to the scene to re-enact his movements after Han was thrown to the tracks after what appeared to be an argument with another passenger.
Abbasi told The Times that he held his camera outstretched in front of the train, snapping his flash 49 times in a vain attempt to get the train conductor to slow down.
The conductor has been hospitalized for trauma after the incident, the Post and New York Daily News reported.
“People think I had time to set the camera and take photos, and that isn’t the case,” Abbasi wrote in the Post story.
“The sad part is, there were people who were close to the victim, who watched and didn’t do anything,” he said. “You can see it in the pictures.”
Still, criticism of Abassi and The Post was rife in social media.
“disappointed & disgusted by #NYPost decision to print photo of mans last moment alive, b4 being squished by train,” read a tweet from a California Twitter account.