Wantagh man rescued on subway tracks

Commuters wait at the Atlantic Terminal subway station, Commuters wait at the Atlantic Terminal subway station, Monday, where Michael Lodespoto fell on the tracks days before. (Aug. 16, 2010) Photo Credit: Dave Sanders

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Michael Lodespoto has a message for the strangers who rescued him from the tracks of the New York City subway and whom he credits with giving him another chance at life.

"I just want to thank them for their courage . . . and maybe give them a hug," Lodespoto said from the Brooklyn hospital where he had been admitted after the accident Friday.

Lodespoto, 57, set out on his regular commute that morning, catching the 5:37 a.m. LIRR train from Wantagh, where he lives, to Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn. From there, he planned to take the subway to his job in lower Manhattan as an MTA architect.

He swiped his fare and as he walked to the platform around 6:30 a.m., Lodespoto started to feel dizzy and weak. At the edge of the track, he leaned against a column. That's the last thing he remembers before losing consciousness. The next thing he recalls is being lifted back onto the platform from the tracks where he'd fallen.

He remembers at least four faces among the figures hoisting him up. They were dressed in jeans and T-shirts. He thinks they may have been construction workers.

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Once he was on the platform, a woman who apparently had some medical training took charge, staying with him until professionals arrived moments later. "She held my neck rigid and every time I would start to close my eyes and fade out she would keep me awake," Lodespoto said.

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City Fire Department officials got a call at 6:49 a.m. about a man who'd fallen onto the tracks. Firefighters arrived in 21/2 minutes, followed shortly by EMTs. They had no information about those who aided Lodespoto and said he was taken to Kings County Hospital in serious condition with a head injury suffered in the fall.

Being an MTA employee, Lodespoto said he's aware of how dangerous falling on the subway tracks can be.

According to city transit officials, there have been 56 incidents this year alone in which someone ended up on the tracks. Half of them were fatal. In Lodespoto's case, he said he doesn't think a train was approaching.

"Anything could have happened," Lodespoto said. "I'm very fortunate."

Lodespoto's job at the MTA involves ensuring work on the subway system is done correctly, some design, and reviewing the plans of outside architects. His boss describes him as the type of person who would want to find those who helped him.

"I have worked with Mike for several years, the last three as his supervisor," Sonia Jaising, a director of the city transit system's capital projects program, said in an e-mailed statement. "He is a wonderful person - very kind and compassionate."

Diana Lodespoto, Michael's wife of 20 years, described the people who helped her husband as "godsends."

"I know how quickly trains come right after the other," she said. "They were little angels placed there just to grab him out."

Diana Lodespoto, 56, said she is going to make sure her husband spends more time with their grandchildren, who plan to visit with their grandfather Tuesday. Always a "glass-half-empty" kind of guy, her husband seems to have a changed outlook since his rescue, she said. "Everything is a little more positive, which is nice," she said. "He's looking at things more like there is a reason for everything."

Lodespoto left the hospital Monday afternoon. He said doctors ruled out any problems with his heart or brain but advised him to do more tests with his regular doctor to determine why he fainted. Lodespoto thinks he may have been tired from lack of sleep and a bit dehydrated, but he doesn't have a good explanation.

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Nor can he explain his luck in escaping serious injury or death. "I don't know if I am supposed to be making a life change, but I do feel like I was given another chance. And I'm going to try to discover what that message is for me."

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