On Wednesday at 8:44 a.m. local time, Lodi, California, police officer Erika Urrea was posted near an intersection of train tracks on Lodi Avenue. She noticed an elderly man in a wheelchair sitting on the train tracks when the crossing arms started to come down, signaling an oncoming train.
“It just kind of looked like he was struggling a little bit, like he was kind of wiggling in his chair like he was stuck,” Urrea told Coffee or Die.
Urrea stopped her car, threw it into park, and quickly exited her squad car. She ran up to the man in the wheelchair and, after noticing his right wheel was stuck in the tracks, asked him if he could walk.
Urrea said that when she first approached him, it seemed like she had some time before the train would arrive. She initially encouraged the man to try and stand up to get off the tracks, but he wasn’t able to do so. As she was trying to dislodge the wheelchair from the tracks, she saw out of the corner of her eye that the train was approaching faster than she had expected.
“You don’t really realize how fast they’re going until they’re pretty much right at you,” Urrea said.
She knew there wasn’t much time left, so she pulled him out of the wheelchair, backward and away from the tracks.
“The only thing that that was going through my mind was just, You got to get him off the tracks,” Urrea said. The train blew past them, catching the elderly man’s legs on the tracks. And it was all caught on her body cam.
“I fell back and heard the train hit something,” she said. “I initially thought that maybe I didn’t get to him on time or something.” She got back to her feet quickly and saw that the man was still alive but injured.
The train amputated one of his legs and broke the other. Even though the man was injured, Urrea, who has served 14 years with the LPD, had saved his life.
Urrea said it was surreal watching her own body cam footage. “This was definitely a first for me and, you know, definitely something I’m going to remember forever,” she said.
The Lodi Police Department said in a Facebook post: “The male suffered a leg injury that was tended to immediately by Officer Delgado (who had arrived to assist) and Officer Urrea. The 66-year-old male was ultimately transported to a local hospital for medical treatment. 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.”
The Sacramento Bee reported, “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.”
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated from its original version to include quotes and information from an interview with Officer Erika Urrea.