Above the Call

CDCR Sergeant pulls man from train’s path

Man in uniform stands in front of a U.S. flag.
CCWF Sgt. Martin Gonzales.

By Lt. Rudy Diaz

A summer drive turned into a rescue mission for one Central California Women’s Facility staff member.

On a hot summer afternoon on July 27, 2018, Sgt. Martin Gonzales was driving through a busy section of Madera. As he approached a nearby skate park, he saw two vehicles ahead of him collide, sending a pickup truck up an embankment onto railroad tracks.

The front wheels of the truck were on the railroad tracks and the back wheels of the truck were spinning out of control, spraying debris of pebbles and rocks everywhere.

Gonzales got out of his car and ran to the truck. As he got closer, he saw a man and woman in the vehicle. When Gonzales tried opening the door, it was locked.

The couple appeared to be in shock and disoriented. He tapped on the window in order to get their attention but they didn’t respond.

Another bystander who responded to the scene was also trying to get the attention of the female passenger.

As Gonzales checked his surroundings, he spotted a train coming down the tracks. He started to pound on the window harder and yelled at the passengers to unlock the door.

“A train is coming,” he yelled. The person on the other side of the truck continued to do the same.

While the next few seconds seemed like an eternity, the female passenger snapped out of her daze and partially rolled down the window. The person helping on the other side of the truck reached in and hit the unlock button.

“We both opened the doors to the truck. I looked up and the train was still coming down the tracks so I unbuckled the man’s seat belt and was attempting to pull the man out of the truck; however his hand was clenched to the bottom of the steering wheel,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales pried the man’s fingers off the steering wheel and was able to grab his belt and pull him out of the truck onto the ground.

Gonzales dragged the man to a safe area with the help on another passerby.

The female passenger was also assisted safely out of the vehicle by other responders.

Luckily, the train operator spotted the vehicle on the tracks and was able to stop before striking the truck.