The woman killed in the New Jersey Transit train crash into Hoboken Terminal was alive in the initial moments after impact, aided by a man who tried desperately to save her.
Rahman Perkins, 29, of Rahway, says he was rushing through the Hoboken Terminal to get to class Thursday morning when the train came barreling in.
"I was walking behind the station by the pier and everyone started running out, and I started running in, like an instant," he said. "I saw the train just hit the wall."
The crash brought down structural debris that hit Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, the 34-year-old mother who had just dropped off her toddler daughter at day care.
"I was just moving people and picking up beams and metal, and I happened to see her feet on the ground," Perkins told NBC 4 New York Friday, describing the heartbreaking encounter.
"It was just chaotic -- I mean, really, it was dangerous everywhere," he said.
A photo from the scene shows Perkins amid the debris, in a light blue jacket and backpack. He said he had been running late for class at the nearby Cortiva Institute, and took a shortcut through the train station moments before the crash.
Perkins found de Kroon under the debris, amazingly still alive.
"I told her, 'Just breathe, focus on your family, focus on your loved ones,'" he said. "I told her, 'I'm here, I'm not going to leave you.'"
"She fought. She really did her best," said Perkins.
As De Kroon struggled to breathe, "I could see she was in so much pain, I didn't want to pick her up and run anywhere because there was so much blood and I didn't know where it was coming from," said Perkins.
In the chaos that followed, Perkins said police finally told him he had to leave, but he continued to inquire about de Kroon while at school.
"I kept calling back downstairs out of my school, 'Did someone check on her, did someone check on her?'" he said. "They were like, they took her to the hospital."
He went to the hospital, where he received the devastating news that the Hoboken resident -- a wife and mother of one who recently moved from Brazil -- had died.
"I know that she knew I was there. I know that she knew I was going to make sure she wasn't going to be by herself so it just puts a little peace in my heart," Perkins said. "I just want her family to know I tried my best."
Perkins said he'd welcome any contact from de Kroon's family if they wanted to speak to him.
"It was a terrible situation. Sometimes, a stranger is called upon to help another stranger," Perkins said.
"I hope she watches over me," he said, visibly emotional.
De Kroon was the sole fatality in the train crash. More than 100 people were injured, and 16 of them remained hospitalized Friday.