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Gaspé mayor hailed as hero in France after rescuing train conductor under attack

Daniel Côté, the mayor of Gaspé, is being lauded after, during a work trip to France, he came to the rescue of a train conductor who was being assaulted by a passenger. (Daniel Côté/Facebook - image credit)
Daniel Côté, the mayor of Gaspé, is being lauded after, during a work trip to France, he came to the rescue of a train conductor who was being assaulted by a passenger. (Daniel Côté/Facebook - image credit)

Daniel Côté has many titles: mayor of Gaspé, president of Quebec's union of municipalities (UMQ), prefect of the MRC Côte-de-Gaspé. Now add international hero to the list.

Côté is being lauded for intervening in a violent confrontation between a passenger and the conductor of a high-speed train travelling from Paris to Saint-Malo this week.

In an interview on CBC's Quebec AM, Côté said he was working quietly on the train when he witnessed a passenger becoming aggressive and shouting at the conductor.

He said the man suddenly jumped on the conductor and began beating him up. At one point, he said, the man put his hands around the conductor's neck, and it appeared he was ready to strangle him.

Côté said he couldn't just sit idly by.

"Many people were seeing the [altercation], nobody came to help the train employee, so I did it," he said.

Driven by an adrenaline rush, Côté said, he intervened and was able to subdue the man in a matter of seconds. French media picked up the story, recounting the conductor thanked Côté and offered him a free beverage on his trip.

A Renaissance man of sorts, Côté said he used some of the training he's had as a volunteer firefighter who also practises judo in whatever spare time he has left from being a municipal politician.

He said, eventually, the assailant apologized and walked off the train.

Côté said he came out of the scuffle unscathed, but he couldn't guarantee the same for the other guy.

"Maybe the passenger has a sore arm, but it's his problem," he laughed.

Côté was reluctant to speak with journalists and have his story come to light as he said he was simply doing his civic duty by intervening in the attack.

That hasn't stopped some local officials like Quebec City Mayor Bruno Marchand from giving him credit for his courage.

"I would like to highlight the bravery of [Daniel Côté] for this heroic gesture!" he said in a Twitter post Friday.

"Bravo Daniel, a necessary act that represents the courage of Quebecers, even in France."

Premier François Legault also congratulated Côté for his bravery on Twitter.

Despite what it may seem like, the mayor isn't in France to exercise his talents as a judoka (a judo practitioner) but for official discussions on climate change for the UMQ.

He said he's glad the conductor is safe and is happy to get back to his original mission.

"Helping people is intrinsic to me," he said.