Hero Police Officer acts quickly to save wheelchair bound man stuck on railroad tracks
[Aug. 14, 2020: Joseph Shavit]
As dramatic video shows, California police officer, Erika Urrea, safely pulled a man out of his wheelchair and out of the way of an oncoming train with scant seconds to spare.
Officer Urrea and her partner Sgt. Steve Maynard are both members of the Lodi Police Department. They were on patrol in their Central Valley community when they spotted a 66-year-old man in his wheelchair, stuck on tracks as crossing guards were coming down. The 8:44 am PST train was fast approaching leaving then truly little time to act.
"So, I happen to kind of look to the side and notice there was a man in a wheelchair, and he seemed to be almost wiggling, like he was stuck," Urrea told "NBC Nightly News" on Thursday.
Viewable on footage captured by her body camera, Officer Urrea sprinted from her squad car to the pedestrian and yelled "Can you get up?"
As she unbuckled him and quickly lifted him up out of the wheelchair, she could be heard yelling "Get up, get up, get up, get up, get up!" all the while the Union Pacific train was bearing down on them.
Officer Urrea and the man fell to ground, clear of the tracks, just as the train smashed through his wheelchair feet away.
With the sound of the train still echoing nearby, Officer Urrea could be heard yelling "I need an ambulance now!"
When asked about what was going through her mind as she raced to the scene, Officer Urrea said that she really didn't have enough time to become afraid, however, now she does find the video hard to watch.
"I was trying to figure out 'OK, where's the train? I don't know how fast the train is going. How much time do I have?' But my goal was, 'I need to get him off the tracks,'" Urrea said.
The man was taken to the hospital and he was in stable condition on Thursday.
As for the cause of the wheelchair becoming stuck, Lodi police Lt. Michael Manetti said, "As the incident happened very quickly, we believe the chair wheel was stuck in the groove between the railroad track and the cement."
“We are very proud of Officer Urrea and her heroic actions," Lodi police Capt. David Griffin said in a statement on Thursday. "Thanks to her awareness and quick action she was able to save the man’s life at great personal risk to herself. This is another shining example of the brave actions the men and women of law enforcement exhibit every day.”
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What can we learn?
There are many heroic and compassionate police officers across the country. This is a single example of thousands of selfless and heroic acts conducted by peace officers every day. Most of these acts don't receive the appreciation they deserve.
According to What's the best way to bike over railroad tracks?, researchers determined that crossing train tracks at a 30 degree angle or greater is critical to your safety and success. We can all learn from that.