BY JON CRONIN
Glendale’s Jonathan Kulig didn’t expect to become a hometown hero after he saved a man who had fallen on the tracks of the L train last week.
A 15-year-old tourist from Seattle used his phone to shoot video of the incident, which has spread like wildfire across the internet. In the video, Kulig is on the tracks, briefly examining the fallen commuter and then quickly taking the man in his arms and lifting him onto the platform.
Kulig, a Con Edison supervisor, said that around 8:30 p.m. on April 1, he was just getting back from renovating a place in Philadelphia with his younger brother when he realized his brother had left something behind and had to return it to him in Manhattan.
He was getting off the train at the 3rd Avenue stop at 14th Street for the L Train when he noticed something amiss.
“When I got off the train, I saw something fall,” he said. “At first I thought nothing of it; people are throwing things all the time. I thought it was a blanket.”
Kulig looked again across the station from the Manhattan-bound to the Brooklyn-bound side and saw that it was a man who had fallen onto the tracks.
Parker Van de Graaf, a Seattle teen who was on vacation with his mother in Manhattan, had just gotten off the eastbound side of the station. He and his mother saw the man stumbling toward the tracks. They said to each other that he was going to fall and then he did.
Kulig had knowledge of how to navigate the rails due to work-based safety precautions at Con Ed, so he leapt across both sets of tracks and made it to the man’s side. He asked the man if he had medical conditions about which EMTs should know.
“He was conscious, but kind of out it,” said Kulig, who added that he could hear a train approaching. “I got some nods out of him.”
Kulig said that there are spaces underneath train tracks where someone could hide, but it depends on the station.
“I considered that for a split second, but didn’t know for sure that I would be safe there or if he would be safe there,” he said, adding that he knew he could fit between beams that separate the eastbound and westbound sides.
Kulig said that he learned this safety precaution when he was working on a Con Ed project within the Metro- North area.
“It was an awareness level,” he said. “I knew where the problems were and was able to identify the hazards.”
The biggest challenge, he said, is knowing how to identify the third rail and an oncoming train.
Van de Graaf said that Kulig made his way across the tracks quickly.
“He was there in about 15 to 20 seconds,” he said. “My mom was freaking out. She was saying, ‘Help, help, help.’”
He said that he and his mother wanted to help, but neither of them was able to identify the third rail.
In the video, Van de Graaf’s mother can be seen helping Kulig bring the man onto the platform.
“It was pretty hectic. I was in shock when it was going on,” the teen said.
Kulig, 29, is a lifelong Glendale resident who graduated from Archbishop Molloy High School in Briarwood.
Reach Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin.