Aeron Soosaipillai was on his regular train trip from Pickering to Ryerson University on April 2, when he looked up and saw something peculiar. There was a man next to the tracks, standing on a bridge, overlooking the road below.
“I was just working on an assignment the whole time,” Soosaipillai said. “For some reason, I did look out at Scarborough station and saw this man standing over on the railings.”
The rail bridge above St. Clair Avenue East is just steps from the platform where Soosaipillai quickly got off the GO train. The 20-year-old student had never made the stop there before but felt compelled to do something. He approached the distraught man standing next to the railing but couldn’t get very close.
“I started talking to him and said ‘Hey man what’s going on?’” recalled Soosaipillai. “He started swearing and saying ‘I don’t need your help. I don’t need your help.’”
He slowly moved closer and continued to try and speak with the man before police started to arrive. Authorities soon began to block off the road below when the man sat down and turned toward Soosaipillai with more to say.
“He gave me a baby shoe,” Soosaipillai said. “He took it out of his pocket and he said ‘Just do one thing for me. Tell him I love him.’”
That’s when he felt he needed to act. He didn’t take the shoe and explained to the man that he needed to try and speak with others himself. The man then turned around and put his arms up. At that point, Soosaipillai thought he might jump from the bridge, so he quickly reacted and grabbed the man.
“We both fell on the ground and he was kind of crying and I almost started crying too,” Soosaipillai said. “I said, ‘Hey man I’m proud of you. You’re awesome.’”
Both GO officials and Toronto Police arrived at that time to take the man into custody and offer him help. They also began to look for more witnesses and see that Soosaipillai was OK after the terrifying incident.
“I went back to get my jacket and my bag,” he said. “That’s when it sunk in at that point.”
Soosaipillai still can’t fully explain why he felt the need to get off that train that day. The instinct to help someone else simply kicked in and ended up paying off.
“It can either go up or down for him right now,” Soosaipillai said. “I’ve given him a second chance and that’s the best that I can do.”
Soosaipillai is being presented with a safety award at Metrolinx’s board meeting on April 26.
“We’re so thankful Aeron acted and saved this man’s life,” said George Bell, Metrolinx’s vice-president of safety and security.
“We also want our passengers to know our team is here to help,” Bell said. “Talk to a station attendant, a Transit Safety Officer or other Metrolinx team member to get help, rather than feeling you have to intervene yourself.
“We want to make sure everyone stays safe,” Bell said. “While we place a very high value on altruism, people need to be very cautious about putting themselves in significant danger while helping someone else.”