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New York subway death: Photographer defends gruesome picture

9:42 AM, Dec 5, 2012   |    comments
(Photo from New York Post on December 4)
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John Bacon, USA TODAY

The photographer under fire for taking pictures of a man who was pushed off a New York subway platform and hit by a train said Wednesday that he did all he could to save the man and that he has sold the rights to the photos.

"Selling a photo of this nature sounds morbid. I licensed these photographs," freelance photographer R. Umar Abbasi told NBC's Today show. Abbasi created a firestorm when his photo of the victim, Ki-Suck Han, appeared on the front page of Tuesday's New York Post.

Authorities said a suspect has implicated himself in Han's death. The suspect was taken into custody on Tuesday after investigators recovered security video that showed a man fitting the description of the suspect working with street vendors near Rockefeller Center, said New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne.

No arrest had been made.

Abbasi told Today he didn't see much of the altercation Monday and that he was hundreds of feet from the incident.

"It took me a second to figure out what is happening," he said. He said he saw Han try to get back on the platform.

"I saw the lights in the distance of the approaching train. The only thing I could think of was to alert the driver with my flash," Abassi said. He said he didn't realize until much later that he had useable photos.

He said Han was probably on the tracks for about 20 seconds, and said others were closer to Han and might have been able to save him.

"There is no way I could have rescued Mr. Han," Abbasi said. "What surprised me was that people maybe 100 feet or 150 feet did nothing to help."

Abbasi also said that after the train hit Han, scores of people on the platform began taking videos of the body and the doctor who went to his aid.

"My condolences to the family," Abbasi told Today. "If I could have, I would have pulled Mr. Han out. I didn't care about the photographs."

Witnesses told investigators they saw the suspect talking to himself Monday afternoon before he approached Han at the Times Square station, got into an altercation with him and pushed him into the train's path.

Han, 58, of Queens, died shortly after being struck. Police said he tried to climb a few feet to safety but got trapped between the train and the platform's edge.

The Post photo showed Han with his head turned toward the train, his arms reaching up but unable to climb off the tracks in time.

In a first person account of the incident published in the Post on Wednesday, Abbasi wrote that he didn't even look at the photos until later that night.

"It was terrible, seeing it happen all over again," Abbasi wrote. "I didn't sleep at all. All I can hear is that man's head against that train: Boom! Boom! Boom!"

Abassi said he is not bothered by "the armchair critics" who "have no idea how very quickly it happened."

Abbasi said no one knows how they would react until the something tragic happens.

"The truth is I could not reach that man; if I could have, I would have," he wrote. "But the train was moving faster than I could get there."

Contributing: Associated Press

USA TODAY

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