A California police officer pulled a man out of his wheelchair and to safety on Wednesday, moments before he would have been crushed by an oncoming train, dramatic video of the rescue showed.
Lodi police officer Erika Urrea and Sgt. Steve Maynard were on patrol in their Central Valley community when they spotted the 66-year-old man in his wheelchair, stuck on tracks as crossing guards were coming down and a train approached at 8:44 a.m. PT, officials said.
Urrea was driving and she barely caught sight the prone pedestrian out of the corner of her eye.
“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.
Urrea’s body camera captured the life-and-death seconds, as she sprinted from her squad car to the pedestrian, stuck on Lodi Avenue.
“Can you get up?” Urrea can be heard frantically asking on the bodycam video.
She unbuckled him, grabbed his torso and pulled him up out of the chair.
“Get up, get up, get up, get up, get up!” Urrea screamed n the video while the Union Pacific train fast approached and she pulled him away.
Urrea and the man fell to ground as the train smashed through his wheelchair feet away.
“I need an ambulance now!” Urrea yelled out, with the sound of the train still speeding past.
As these terrifying seconds unfolded, Urrea said she didn’t have enough time to become afraid. But 24 hours later, the veteran police officer admitted the video was 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.
“Honestly, it seems like I’m watching someone else’s video. It’s very surreal … it was scary to watch.”
The man was taken to the hospital and he was in stable condition on Thursday.
“As the incident happened very quickly we believe the chair wheel was stuck in the groove between the railroad track and the cement,” Lodi police Lt. Michael Manetti said.
The 36-year-old single mom, who has beenon the job for 14 years, said — unsurprisingly — there’s no training for dealing with a speeding train.
“No, nothing this specific at least,” Urrea laughed, adding that she’ll never forget Wednesday’s rescue. “The most memorable … probably the scariest incident that I’ve been involved with so far.”
The officer’s supervisors hailed her quick thinking and decisive action.
“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.”
The video has been viewed millions of times across the world since Lodi police first published it on their YouTube page late Wednesday afternoon.
Former pro basketball player Rex Chapman, a prolific social media scraper who can make video go viral just by sharing it with his 918,000 followers, posted the clip on Wednesday night. And on his feed alone, it took just 17 hours for Lodi clip to reach a million views.
“Oh. My. God,” Chapman wrote, summing up the video’s content.
A Sacramento TV news anchor, with just 4,500 followers, also had a million views of the video in about the same time frame as Chapman’s post.
Urrea shrugged off being called a hero and insisted anyone in her position would have acted as she did.
“I honestly don’t think I did anything special. I know all the people that I work with would have done the same thing,” the officer said Thursday.
“I just did what I felt that anybody in my situation would have done and something that I felt like, if that was my family member or friend that was stuck, I would want someone to come out and help.”
The San Joaquin County community of Lodi, with a population of 67,000, is about 90 miles northeast of San Francisco and 40 miles south of Sacramento.
The agricultural town was the subject of the 1969 song “Lodi,” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Today Lodi is a major regional producer of wine grapes, particularly Zinfandel.
Ali Gostanian contributed.