A fast-acting subway operator swept a 13-year-old wandering the tracks out of harm’s way Thursday morning.
The boy was rescued thanks to an eagle-eyed commuter who spotted him and transit workers who quickly spread the word of his whereabouts, according to the MTA and police.
"I’m very proud of our train operator and station agent for their quick action to bring this child to safety without incident so that he can be reunited with his family,” said Transit President Andy Byford in a statement. “We also thank the NYPD, the customer who notified our station staff and everyone who worked together for the safety and welfare of this child."
The rescue began around 9:16 a.m., when a commuter noticed the boy on the tracks of the Hoyt Street station of the 2 and 3 lines, standing close to the third rail. The transit workers union, TWU Local 100, said the boy is on the autism spectrum.
The rider alerted the station agent, Netta Taylor, through a help point intercom in the station. Taylor then ran the information up to the subways’ Rail Control Center, which alerted all train crews as well as the police.
Hopeton Kiffin, a subway operator moving a Manhattan-bound 5 train through the area, noticed the child between the local and express tracks. He stopped the train momentarily, brought the boy on board, and then moved to the train’s next stop, Borough Hall, where police were waiting.
“Just doing my duty, you know?” said Kiffin, 51, of East Flatbush. “I’m a father; I’m an uncle; I’m a son. I just wanted to go down there and try to protect him and make sure nothing happened to him.”
Kiffin, a 16-year veteran of the MTA, said he was slowly moving through Hoyt when he noticed the red of the boy’s shirt — but the child was standing in a two-foot space between columns, so Kiffin couldn’t make out exactly what he was seeing. He noticed a passenger on the platform waving and then realized it was the child on the tracks.
The boy was clapping his hands, which Kiffin recognized to be a stress reflex, as he stood inches away from peril. Kiffin hopped out onto live tracks to bring the boy onto the train.
“I was trying to communicate with him verbally but he wasn’t responding verbally. So I used hand motion to call him over and he came,” Kiffin said.
“I tried to make him as comfortable as possible and get him aboard the train,” Kiffin said. “The best way to deal with any passenger: just remain calm. It’s not even what you say … if you yourself are calm, they feed off that.”
Tony Utano, the president of TWU Local 100, said Kiffin’s "alertness and professionalism" helped avoid a tragedy.
“You can never relax when you are operating a subway train," Utano said in a statement. "You have to be alert for anything out of the ordinary, and this story has a happy ending because this operator spotted this child and managed to get him to safety.”
The boy was safely handed over to police around 9:31 a.m. without any injuries, according to the MTA.
It was not immediately clear how the boy came to be on the tracks.