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Russian Subway Driver Praised For Steel Nerves In Deadly St. Petersburg Blast

Train driver Aleksandr Kaverin talks to the press on April 4.
Train driver Aleksandr Kaverin talks to the press on April 4.

When Aleksandr Kaverin heard a "bang" as he steered his train through an underground tunnel in central St. Petersburg, 15 years of training and experience as a subway driver kicked in.

"I contacted the dispatcher and told him about the situation," Kaverin, 51, told Russian media. "At the same time, people were relaying strange messages via the passenger-driver intercom," Interfax quoted him as saying. "I decided to act according to instructions laid out by the subway for such situations. I decided to drive on to the next station."

Kaverin is now being feted for that decision, which authorities say likely saved lives after a bomb tore through a car on his train on April 3, killing more than 14 people and injuring dozens of others.

The carnage might have been much greater had Kaverin frozen amid the confusion as his damaged train traveled between two central subway stations at around 2:40 p.m., a spokeswoman for Russia's main investigative agency said.

"The driver made the absolutely right decision not to stop the train and to drive to the next station, which allowed immediate evacuation and assistance for the victims," Svetlana Petrenko of the federal Investigative Committee was quoted by Interfax as saying.

"It's quite possible that this helped prevent even more deaths," she added.

Images showed a door blown off and carnage inside the train car.
Images showed a door blown off and carnage inside the train car.

Photographs and videos taken after Kaverin pulled the train into the Tekhnologichesky Institut station showed injured or dead people splayed on the platform.

Images showed a train door blown out and the interior of the car destroyed.

Kaverin told reporters on April 4 that there was "no time to think about fear."

"It was time to work. There was no panic," he said.

Kaverin said it was fortunate that three subway-driving instructors were at the Tekhnologichesky Institut station when he called in from the tunnel. He said his colleagues immediately came to help rescue passengers as he pulled in.

The head of the St. Petersburg Metro praised Kaverin for keeping his cool.

"This person made the only correct decision when it counted," Vladimir Garyugin told Russian media on April 4.

A metro spokeswoman said following the deadly explosion that Averin would be honored with an award for saving passengers, "because in a closed area, the number of victims could have been greater."

Kaverin, who was born in Soviet Central Asia and later lived in Russia's southern Orenburg region, told reporters on April 4 that he did not stay at his home the previous night because of a media stakeout at his apartment.

He did not appear to appreciate the attention.

"I have family, minor children. [Journalists] were ringing the doorbell at 11 p.m. to find out something from my wife," he said. "This is just unacceptable in this situation. I did not spend last night at home because of this. I did not go [home] to my family and children just because journalists were sticking around."

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    Carl Schreck

    Carl Schreck is an award-winning investigative journalist who serves as RFE/RL's enterprise editor. He has covered Russia and the former Soviet Union for more than 20 years, including a decade in Moscow. He has led investigations into corruption, cronyism, and disinformation campaigns in Russia and Central Asia, as well as on poisoning attacks against Kremlin opponents and assassinations of Iranian exiles in the West. Schreck joined RFE/RL in 2014.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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