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Video: Cop saves man in wheelchair from oncoming train

The officer had only seconds to spare before the train collided with the man’s wheelchair

By Molly Burke and Molly Sullivan
The Sacramento Bee

LODI, Calif. — The rescue of a man in a wheelchair Wednesday along a deadly stretch of railroad tracks in Lodi was captured in breathtaking body camera video by the police officer who pulled him off the tracks with only seconds to spare.

Officer Erika Urrea of the Lodi Police Department was patrolling Lodi Avenue near the railroad tracks around 8:44 a.m. when she saw the man on the tracks.

As she pulled up in her car, Urrea noticed that the man, who was only identified as a 66-year-old, appeared to have his wheelchair stuck on the tracks just as the crossing arms were coming down and an oncoming Union Pacific locomotive was fast approaching, police said in a social media post.

Urrea, the video showed, bolted from her cruiser and ran toward the man, attempting to pull his chair off the tracks. In the span of four seconds, seeing it wedged, she then pulled him out of the chair. Urrea and the man both fell to the ground as the locomotive barreled across the track, the video shows, amid a frightening thud of the train striking the wheelchair and the man’s leg.

The time between Urrea exiting her vehicle and the train crossing was 15 seconds, the video shows.

Urrea scrambled off the ground, radios for help and grabs the man to pull him away from the tracks.

The man, who suffered an injury, was taken to a hospital after being treated by Urrea and Officer Chris Delgado, who arrived seconds later. He is expected to survive, police said.

“Officer Urrea risked her own life to save another and her actions prevented a tragedy today. We are extremely proud of Officer Erika Urrea and her heroism,” Lodi Police Department said in the Facebook post.

The rescue came after a spate of train-related deaths this year in San Joaquin County. There have been at least five deaths in San Joaquin County, including in Lodi and Stockton. The latest death was July 28, when a man was hit by a passing train near the Lodi Transit Station. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The year before, 11 people were killed in train-related incidents in the county, including four who were pedestrians, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

In neighboring Sacramento County, seven people out of nine killed by trains in 2019 were pedestrians struck by locomotives.

California has the highest number of train casualties of any state, according to the administration, accounting for one-fifth of all deaths and injuries reported. Based on preliminary 2019 data published in April, the agency said 141 people were killed and another 95 were injured in train-related incidents.

©2020 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)