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No thought, just heroic action; Subway rider rescues stranger when he falls off platform into train's path

Steven Love was headed down the stairs Thursday afternoon on the outbound side of the Utica Street subway station, on his way to his job as a cook at the T.G.I. Friday's in Williamsville, when he first noticed the man ahead of him.

Love, 27, looked down for a second and then looked back up -- in time to see the man suddenly collapse and fall off the platform onto the tracks.

There were several dozen people on either side of the station, Love noted. But no one seemed to be doing anything.

"He hit his head real bad," Love recounted to The Buffalo News. "His nose was bleeding. He was out. He was unconscious. He wasn't responding to anything."

Love lay down on the ground close to the edge of the subway platform "to see if I could grab him and pull him," he said.

But he couldn't reach the stricken man.

"So I had to go down," he said. "It was one of those moments where you don't think. You react."

The father of three jumped down to where the man lay motionless.

"At that time," he said, "I saw the train coming."

It seemed that the train operator didn't see them at first.

"Then he started blowing the horn," Love said.

Love grabbed the unconscious man and lifted him up. He couldn't get him all the way up, so he flipped him up. A woman standing nearby then grabbed the man and pulled him up.

"I hopped right up after that," Love said.

At the same moment, the train operator, Jose Ramirez, a 10-year veteran, activated the emergency brakes.

Ramirez had already begun to slow the train as he approached the station but he was able to bring it a full stop -- about 50 feet before the point where the man had fallen on the tracks, according to Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer.

"It was wild," Love said. "Sparks were flying all over the place. It was crazy."

The stricken man, identified as John Ciszek, 59, was badly hurt.

"One of the ladies thought he was dead," Love said.

Love checked for a pulse, but couldn't find one. But he realized Ciszek was still alive because he could see bubbles forming in the blood that covered his face.

NFTA police, city firefighters and Rural Metro paramedics soon arrived and took Ciszek to Erie County Medical Center. He was listed in serious condition Friday.

At the subway station, fellow passengers showered Love with praise.

"I was kind of in shock," Love said. "People were saying: 'Oh, that was brave.' 'That was good.' 'That was a blessing.' But I couldn't really react to anything. I was so in shock. People were giving me hugs, but I couldn't react."

Worried that he'd be late to his job, Love asked the police to call his bosses at Friday's to let them know what happened.

"Everything was fine," Love said, after he took the subway and Bus 48 to the restaurant. "So I've still got my job."

After work, he stopped by ECMC to check on Ciszek. At the time, he didn't know his name and it was past visiting hours. But he learned that the man was still alive and that he had been admitted.

Love was back at work again Friday afternoon, still trying to make sense of what had transpired the day before.

He had never had any kind of training for emergencies, he said. The only similar experience was a time when one of his daughters began choking on mucus when she was an infant.

"She was blue," he said.

He used a nasal syringe used for clearing stuffed noses and stuck it down her throat. It cleared it out.

"The doctor said if I didn't do that, she would have died," he recalled.

Love said he's just glad he was able to help.

"I just know that if that was me or any of my relatives or anyone, I would want someone to jump down there the say way I did," he said.