Lifestyle & Human Interest

Young Boy with Autism Saved by Hero Conductor After Wandering onto Subway Tracks


While nobody saw how a 12-year-old boy with autism managed to climb down onto a set of subway tracks in New York City, concerned passengers and a subway train worker united together to avoid tragedy.

It was about 9:15 a.m. on April 4 when the boy, described as around 12 years old and wearing a red jacket, was spotted wandering alone on the Brooklyn subway tracks near Hoyt Street Station.

One customer noticed the boy, ran to a call box and pushed a help button. The station agent who fielded the call was able to notify the rail control center, who told subway train operators to keep a lookout for the boy.

It was subway operator Hopeton Kiffin, 51, who spotted the boy wandering dangerously close to an electrified stretch of tracks that his train typically would have barreled through.

Kiffin brought his train to a stop and tried to communicate with the boy, who he said was nonverbal.

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“I was on the express track going like 15 miles per hour when I saw a red jacket,” Kiffin told New York Daily News. “I slowed down and saw someone on the platform and they were pointing. When I got close I saw the child.”

Kiffin said in that moment, his fatherly instincts kicked in and he knew he needed to climb down to the boy and help him onto his train.

“He was non-responsive verbally,” Kiffin said. “When I motioned him to come with me, he wasn’t responding. I took his arm. He stepped over the third rail and I got him on the train. He had left his book bag on the platform, so someone threw it to me.”

Kiffin, who has been a train operator for 13 years, said he has an 8-year-old daughter, and knew that sometimes kids do not respond well to verbal commands, rather, they just need a firm but gentle person to guide them along.

Kiffin brought the boy to the next stop, Borough Hall, where police were waiting. They brought the boy to a hospital to be evaluated.

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The boy’s mother, Jen Chapin, said her son was not injured but does have autism and had been depressed in recent months. She thanked Kiffin for being the one to save her son from what could have ended in tragedy.

“It was just part of my job,” Kiffin said. “I was trying to do what is right, and I’m a father and an uncle, so I felt protective of him. He was in a dangerous spot on the track.”

Tony Utano, the president of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, said Kiffin’s awareness and heroic response are the reasons the boy is safe and sound.

“You can never relax when you are operating a subway train,” Utano said in a statement. “You have to be alert for anything out of place. This story has a happy ending only because this operator spotted this child and managed to get him to safety.”

Kiffin has graciously accepted the praise and accolades sent his way, simply saying, “I feel I did my job.”

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
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Lifestyle & Human Interest