Officer Erika Urrea of the Lodi Police Department was patrolling the area of Lodi Avenue and Sacramento Street in California at about 8:44 a.m. on August 12, 2020, when she spotted an elderly man in a wheelchair.
The pedestrian was on the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and looked like he was stuck and trying to wiggle himself out but couldn’t do so.
Meanwhile, the northbound train was barreling down the tracks pretty fast, and the railroad crossing arms were already coming down to stop oncoming traffic.
Urrea was driving when she saw the man 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.
Knowing that she only had a few seconds to spare, Urrea stopped her car and quickly got out of her patrol vehicle. She then ran toward the man to get him out of harm’s way.
“Can you get up?” the frantic officer can be heard asking on the body camera video. She couldn’t get his chair loose, so she grabbed hold of him and pulled him up out of the wheelchair.
“Get up, get up, get up, get up, get up!” Urrea screamed as the train fast approached.
The pair fell backward onto the ground as the 250-ton freight train blew past them, striking the man’s legs in the process.
“I need an ambulance now!” Urrea yelled out.
One of the man’s legs was amputated, while the other was fractured. Another officer arrived on the scene and quickly tended to the man’s injuries.
The 66-year-old man, identified only as Jonathan, was taken to a nearby hospital in critical but stable condition.
As the incident unfolded, Urrea didn’t have enough time to be afraid. All she could think about was getting the man off the tracks. But a day later, the brave officer admitted the video was difficult to watch.
“Honestly, it seems like I’m watching someone else’s video. It’s very surreal … it was scary to watch,” she said.
Authorities believe that the chair’s right wheel was stuck in the groove between the railroad track and cement, according to Lodi police Lt. Michael Manetti.
“Officer Urrea risked her own life to save another, and her actions prevented a tragedy today,” the department wrote in a Facebook post, sharing the heart-stopping 45-second video footage from the cop’s body camera. “We are extremely proud of Officer Urrea and her heroism.”
Unsurprisingly, Urrea said it was the “most memorable” and “scariest incident” she’s been involved in so far. And that says a lot because she’s been in service for 14 years.
On September 29, the Amtrak Police Department awarded Urrea with the “Life Saving Medal” for rescuing the elderly man. She was presented with the honor at the Lodi Police Station by APD and California Operation Lifesaver.
According to Urrea’s police department, this isn’t the first time she has saved a Lodi resident’s life. According to Lt. Eric VerSteeg, Urrea jumped into action and tried to perform CPR on a 62-year-old man after he collided with the rear of a bus while riding his bike on August 4 of the same year.
Everyone has been calling Urrea a hero, but she downplayed these praises, saying that the people she works with would have done the same thing.
“It’s one of those situations where if one of my family members were stuck or needed help, I would hope that someone would stop and help them and that was just the situation,” Urrea told CBS of the shocking incident.
Here’s the heart-stopping moment caught on camera.
Kudos to Officer Urrea for risking her own life to save another’s! Although it’s been almost a year since it happened, this heroic cop deserves to be recognized for her life-saving efforts.