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Subway Hero Wants MTA to Introduce Technology to Save Lives

 25-year-old Nicholas Buxton leapt onto the tracks at Canal Street to save a stranger from an oncoming 6 train.
25-year-old Nicholas Buxton leapt onto the tracks at Canal Street to save a stranger from an oncoming 6 train.
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DNAinfo/Allegra Hobbs

MANHATTAN — A hero who leapt onto subway tracks to save the life of a fallen straphanger believes the Metropolitan Transportation Authority should introduce upgrades to avoid the near tragic ordeal happening again.

Nicholas Buxton, 25, who lives in Downtown Manhattan, saw Mathew Martin tumble onto the Canal Street tracks Wednesday.

He jumped after him, pushing the man into a gap under the platform and clambering out of the track bed himself just moments before a northbound 6 train sped into the station.

Now Buxton believes the MTA could save lives if it were to install new technology in the tunnels which would either stop trains in their tracks or notify conductors of incidents

“If somebody was able to get in touch with the train conductor 10 seconds after the man had fallen, the train could have stopped, I believe,” he said.

“I think a lot of deaths could be prevented by that."

Disaster was averted Wednesday thanks to the actions of more people who were on the platform.

Another good Samaritan, Luis Daniel Figueroa, reached down to Buxton and pulled him to safety moments before the 6 train barreled past.

And off-duty NYPD Sergeant Alfred Ricci had leapt onto the track bed to pull the emergency power lever and cut electricity to the line.

But many are not so fortunate. In 2013, 151 people were struck by oncoming trains, and 53 of those people died as a result, the New York Daily News reported at the time.

Buxton believes the installation of  preventative technology could make a dent in those numbers.

He suggested a lever allowing communication with a train's conductor could be installed on platforms, or a system could be introduced that activates an emergency light to notify the conductor of a fallen person.

“We have the technology to make it happen,” he said. “It’s just a matter of having the funding and the will to do it.”

The MTA is looking at possibilities, a spokesman said.

The authority for the past year has been testing out four detection systems that activate an alarm when a person is on the tracks and alerts train operators of the danger, according to spokesman Kevin Ortiz.

Each system employs different technology  — one uses "intelligent video processing," one uses scanning laser beams, one uses thermal cameras that detect a person's body temperature on the tracks and one uses radio frequency technology.

In its pilot phase, the technologies are currently being tested at an undisclosed station, as the Daily News first reported before the launch of the program.

READ MORE: L Train Platform Eyed for AirTrain-Like Safety Doors in MTA Pilot Program

The MTA will soon launch an additional pilot program at another undisclosed station, said Ortiz, testing out different suppliers of the same technologies. 

They must be tested at various stations to determine which work best under certain conditions, said Ortiz — the long-term program the MTA ultimately decides to install may entail different technologies at different stations.

"Each station is different in terms of makeup and typography," he said. "One size does not fit all."

The MTA does not currently have an estimated timeline for the project's completion, said Ortiz.

Days after the ordeal, Buxton is still shaken. He was unable to sleep until the afternoon after the incident, he said.

He said he is grateful that he was at the station and able to help, and has stayed in contact with both Figueroa and Ricci — as well as a woman who offered emotional support in the immediate aftermath.

But there's another unsung hero Buxton credits — his childhood nanny, Bronx resident Ronnie Sweeney, who taught him about the dangers of the third rail when she would take him on the subway.

He called Sweeney after the ordeal to thank her, he said.

“She was beaming and crying,” he said.