December 05, 2012 7:39am PT by Erin Carlson
Subway Death Photographer Defends Snapping Controversial Image (Video)
R. Umar Abbasi, the New York Post freelance photographer who snapped the controversial image of a man about to die on the subway tracks, faced grilling from Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie on Wednesday's edition of the Today show.
The death of 58-year-old Ki-Suk Han, who was pushed down into the tracks on Monday by alleged suspect Naeem Davis, 30, after an argument, instantly captured national interest -- witnesses captured the horrific moment on cell-phone video, with Abbasi documenting Han attempting to pull himself up -- and set off debate over whether someone could have rescued Han. (See: Gawker's round-up of responses from Pulitzer Prize-winning photographers.)
Tuesday's Post cover headline, with Abbasi's haunting photo: "DOOMED."
"I read somewhere where you said it was approximately 20 or 22 seconds between the time the man was pushed onto the tracks -- Mr. Han -- and he was hit and killed by the train," said Lauer. "Twenty-two seconds is a long time -- was there nothing you could have done?"
Abbasi -- who said his main priority in responding to the situation was to alert the subway driver using his camera's flash -- observed that witnesses who stood closer to Han did nothing to help as the Queens father desperately tried to escape the incoming train.
"They could have moved and grabbed him and pulled him out,'' he said. "Nobody made an effort. This is a frozen moment. There's a train approaching. From where the train is to where Mr. Han is, is a second. I am further away.''
Abbasi also said his actions were delayed as the suspect was in the vicinity. "There's a lapse in there where I brace myself with my back to the wall because I don't want to be pushed on the (tracks)," he noted.
"If this thing happened again with the same circumstances, whether I had a camera or not and I was running towards it, there was no way I could've rescued Mr. Han," Abbasi emphasized. "If I was in a reachable distance, I would've grabbed him and tried to pull him.''
Watch the interview below.