It’s a trope in old tales: a person bound and set on a train track, waiting their eventual doom. We’re all familiar with it, but that usually doesn’t enter into our daily lives.
It’s far more common to find a car stuck on the tracks, in a crossing or otherwise. Videos of close calls have long circulated, leaving everyone on their toes, hoping against hope that everyone involved makes it out alive.
There are many different reasons for these occurrences. Sometimes the driver is confused or disoriented, sometimes they’re unwilling to abandon their car on the tracks without a fight, and sometimes they’ve experienced medical emergencies.
This story starts out similarly to most other cases, but it offers a few twists and turns that others do not.
The whole ordeal started when a public safety trooper, Hank Roanhorse, came upon a troubling scene. He was headed home after a day of work, near the Arizona and New Mexico border, when he spotted a car stuck on the tracks.
It looked like the car had veered off the road and gotten lodged on the tracks off to the side. There was no activity of any kind, and Roanhorse — who knew the area well — knew that these were busy tracks.
He got out to investigate, and found a driver, unconscious in the driver’s seat. When he opened the door, the culprit became painfully obvious.
The smell of alcohol was heavy on the man. He was belted in, and clearly not about to exit the vehicle on his own.
Another complication was that the man was somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 pounds. Roanhorse reached over to unbuckle him and try to get him to safety.
Just as he reached in, he saw a train in the distance, barreling toward them. Quickly freeing the unconscious man from his restraints, he lugged him from his perilous spot.
Once Roanhorse got the man out of the car, he had no option but to drag him by his feet to try to get him away from the scene.
To make matters more complicated, the man woke up. He was probably pretty surprised over his situation, and more than a little disoriented, and he began to struggle against the trooper.
Roanhorse managed to get his charge 25 feet from the car before the train slammed into it, striking it and sending it skittering 150 feet.
The man, later identified as 56-year-old Sampson Whitegoat, surveyed the scene, realized what had happened, and chirped out, “Thank you officer, you just saved my life.”
Yes. Despite the initial fight he put up, there’s nothing like seeing absolute destruction before you to sober you up very quickly, and he soon realized what would have happened.
The car had been crumpled up like a soda can. Leaving fluid and debris scattered about, it was a loss — but fortunately, Roanhorse had been able to keep the incident from involving loss of a life, too.
Roanhorse is a fine example of the good work that is done to protect citizens every day. He may have been doing his duty as an Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper, but it’s encouraging to see these examples of human kindness in the world around us.
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