A fearless woman who jumped into the path of an oncoming train to save the life of a stranger has been remembered by her partner as a ‘beautiful soul’ who dreamed of starting a family after she died at the age of 33.
Ashley Montabello was hailed a hero when she leapt onto the railway at Redfern Station, near Sydney’s CBD, in April last year to save a 57-year-old man who fainted and fell off the platform.
Incredible footage showed the moment Ms Montabello, who was not publicly identified at the time, struggled to help the man as the train screeched towards her – coming to a grinding halt just millimetres from where she stood.
No one was injured during the ordeal and the fainting man was taken to hospital where he made a quick recovery.
However, a family friend of Ms Montabello revealed last month that she died unexpectedly in February – less than a year after her heroic act.
On Sunday, her long-term partner Tommy Cloos, 60, told Daily Mail Australia she was ‘a beautiful person who helped everyone in the community’.
‘She was too young to go,’ he said, in a quavering voice.
Ashley Montabello’s last words to her partner Tommy Cloos were ‘I love you’. They are pictured together
The couple met 10 years ago, just after Ms Montabello moved from Cessnock, in NSW’s Hunter Region, to Sydney at 23.
They had planned to have children in the near future.
Her last words to him before she died in February were ‘I love you’.
‘She said she wanted to marry me,’ Mr Cloos said.
Mr Cloos wasn’t there the day Ms Montabello saved the 57-year-old’s life at Redfern Station, but he wasn’t surprised to hear about what she did.
‘She was on the way to Wolli Creek with a friend when she saw him collapse,’ he said.
‘That was her instinct – she loved helping people, and she didn’t worry about anything.
‘She would give you her left arm if she thought you needed it.’
Mr Cloos said she should have been awarded for her bravery.
‘She had more balls than grace, and she had more balls than a lot of blokes,’ he said.
Ashley Montabello risked her life to save a man who collapsed on to train tracks in Redfern (pictured, the scenes from Redfern in Sydney)
Ms Montabello and Mr Cloos dreamed of starting a family. They are pictured with the child of a close family friend
He was increasingly concerned about Ms Montabello’s battle with drug addiction, which partly began as a coping mechanism to deal with the fact that she was molested as a child.
The relationship with her parents slowly disintegrated, and she eventually cut ties with them when she moved to Sydney.
Mr Cloos said she would often disappear when she was in the midst of a relapse, but he knew something was amiss when she vanished in February this year.
‘At that time she had wanted people to get her [drugs], and then I got worried when she went away for a few days,’ he said.
‘I made inquiries and then police found her in bed, dead.’
Her official cause of death will be determined by the coroner, but Mr Cloos believes she died from a ‘hotshot’ – a potent mix of heroin and fentanyl.
Fentanyl is an opioid that’s 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. It is sometimes used to cut other recreational drugs, like cocaine and MDMA, and responsible for thousands of drug-related deaths worldwide.
‘It’s hard to talk about,’ Mr Cloos said. ‘She was such a beautiful person.’
Ms Montabello (pictured) has been remembered as a ‘beautiful soul’ by her friends and partner
The couple’s hairdresser, Brian, said Ms Montabello’s death shocked everyone in their community.
‘There are heroes who walk amongst us every day,’ he said.
‘You don’t know if the person sitting next to you is the person who’s going to save your life, but that was Ashley.
‘She was such a beautiful, sweet, happy, friendly person and she welcomed everybody.’
Ms Montabello will be buried in Liverpool on Wednesday.
Following the incident at Redfern last year, a Sydney commuter who filmed the incident told Daily Mail Australia at the time that he was thankful the injured man didn’t die.
‘It was a harrowing experience,’ he said.
‘I wasn’t sure what to do myself…I didn’t know what was going to happen.’
‘People were screaming as the train was coming closer – I heard it over the speaker – so I feared the worst.
He said the victim was a ‘large man’ and recalled it took about six people to help him off the tracks, once the vehicle stopped.
‘It was all very confronting, and it reminded me the importance of standing a safe distance back on the platform at all times,’ he said.
Station staff tried desperately to signal the driver and urgently-waved red flags before the train slammed on its brakes.
Ms Montabello was the only person who remained on the tracks, beside the injured man. The train came to a halt just millimetres from where they stood.
Police and emergency services arrived soon after the man and woman’s miracle escape and the elderly man was helped back on to the platform and taken away for treatment.