The Jamaica resident who leaped onto the subway tracks and rescued an unconscious man was praised as a hero last week as City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) presented him with a proclamation at City Hall.
Veeramuthu Kalimuthu, known as "Kali" to friends, was on his way home to Queens last month when he entered the 116th Street subway station at Broadway in Manhattan during the afternoon rush hour after getting off from his job as a mechanic at Columbia University.
A Guyanese immigrant, Kalimuthu heard an uproar on the other side of the platform and decided to see what was going on when he noticed a man lying in the middle of the tracks. After jumping onto the tracks and making sure he did not touch the third rail, Kalimuthu lifted the unconscious man who was 30 pounds heavier than he is and brought him over to the platform by doing a fireman's squat.
Kalimuthu's co-worker at Columbia, Marcos Santos, assisted the Jamaica man by standing by the platform and lifting the unconscious man from the tracks. He said he would have jumped in with Kalimuthu, but his fellow mechanic had the rescue under control.
"I heard a commotion. When I glanced to my right, Kali was already in action," Santos said.
With his family and 12 of his Columbia colleagues to support him, Kalimuthu, 43, received the proclamation April 16 along with free tickets for his family to an upcoming performance of the Universoul Circus at Roy Wilkins Park.
"We don't know how any of us would react if we saw somebody in distress," Comrie said. "Kali answered the call and put his life at risk."
While introducing Kalimuthu at City Hall, Comrie noted that he wanted to give the Jamaica resident the same recognition received by "Subway Superman" Wesley Autrey, a Harlem man who ran onto the subway tracks last summer and rescued another man by huddling with him in between the tracks as a train roared over them.
"The first subway hero got all sorts of accolades," Comrie said. "We wanted to give Kali the same opportunity."
After being awarded the Council Proclamation by Comrie, Kalimuthu said he appreciated the gesture.
His wife, Sunita, said she was not initially convinced when her husband told her of his feat.
"I didn't believe it because he likes to joke around," she said. "So we never know when he's telling the truth or he's joking. When the rumor started to spread, that's when we started to believe it."
She said her husband "did a good job. He risked his life for a life."
Kalimuthu's 16-year-old son, Christopher, said he was not surprised that his father rescued someone from the subway tracks.
"He's not scared," Christopher said.
Kalimuthu said he has yet to make contact with the man he rescued because he is still recovering.
"I'm looking forward to it," Kalimuthu said.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2008 Community News Group
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