The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : Blind Man Falls on Subway Tracks with Service Dog - They Both Survive The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : Blind Man Falls on Subway Tracks with Service Dog - They Both Survive

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Blind Man Falls on Subway Tracks with Service Dog - They Both Survive

A blind man and his loyal service dog fell from a subway platform in Harlem Tuesday morning and together ducked beneath an arriving train without a second to spare, suffering little more than a laceration between them.

Orlando, a black Lab, stood by Cecil Williams in the railbed after the 60-year-old Brooklynite fainted and tumbled off of a northbound A train platform at the 125th St. station.

Williams was dazed. The train was quickly rounding the corner into the station and transit flagman Larmont Smith was screaming for him to lie down in the trough between the rails.

“I only had seconds,” Smith told the Daily News. “I yelled, ‘Put your head down! Put your head down!’ I don’t think he heard me the first two times, but after the third time, he put his head down.”

Then, and only then, did Orlando do the same — just in time to dip under the lead car, Smith said.

“One more second, he would have been dead,” Smith said, still amazed by Orlando’s instincts and devotion.

Orlando had tried to prevent Williams from falling when the blind man grew faint while waiting on the platform at about 9:30 a.m. He was en route to the dentist.

When Williams fell, Orlando went with him onto the tracks. Williams was laying in the railbed with his head up. Straphangers screamed and yelled and summoned help. The train was coming — fast. Orlando wouldn’t leave Williams’ side.

“The dog was sitting right in front of him, kind of like he was guarding him,” said Smith, a 15-year Metropolitan Transportation Authority veteran who happened to be working at the station on Tuesday morning and was alerted to Williams’ plight by a straphanger.

“I give that dog a lot of credit,” added Smith, 54. “It was incredible. Normally an animal,
or another human being, would run. That dog stayed right there.”

Williams suffered mere bruises and a cut to his head during the fall and was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital for treatment, authorities said.

“The dog saved my life,” he told The Associated Press from his hospital bed.

“I’m feeling amazed,” he said, stopping at times as he spoke with a reporter, clearly overcome by emotion.

“I feel that God, the powers that be, have something in store for me. They didn’t take me away this time. I’m here for a reason.”

Orlando was unhurt and still by his master’s side at the hospital.

“It’s a miracle!” Williams’ girlfriend, Cynthia, told The News as she took Orlando for a walk outside St. Luke’s late Tuesday afternoon.

“He’s doing great. He’s feeling fine,” Cynthia, who would only give her first name, said of Williams. “He’s resting. He’s under observation right now.”

Williams said the Labrador retriever, who will turn 11 on Jan. 5, will have to be put up for adoption soon because his insurance will no longer cover the cost of caring for the dog. Williams said that if he could afford it, “I would definitely keep him.”

Williams remembers little about the remarkable drama that unfolded after he fell from the platform, but told the AP he does remember Orlando trying to pull him back from the platform edge.

“He just remembers falling and somebody calling him and that’s basically it; he doesn’t remember much else,” Cynthia said.

Williams said he does not know why he lost consciousness, but added that he takes insulin and other medications.

Witness Danya Gutierrez, 19, who was on the opposite platform, told The News: “I heard him say, ‘Oh, no!’ and I saw him fall into the train tracks with his dog . . . Everyone was screaming and running around to find an MTA employee.”

As the train bore down on Williams and Orlando, some straphangers turned their heads, unable to bear what seemed like a tragedy in the making. “I was in horror,” Gutierrez said. “I screamed. Everyone in the station screamed.”

But after a few moments, someone yelled in amazement. “He’s fine! He’s alive,” the person cried out, said Gutierrez.

Straphangers signaled to the motorman with their hands as the train rounded the corner, and the motorman pulled the emergency brake, but it was not enough to stop the train before it reached Williams and Orlando.

Williams said that his first memory after the fall is of emergency responders reaching him underneath the train, after cutting off power to the third rail.

FDNY Capt. Danny O’Sullivan, a 17-year department veteran who was among the rescuers, said that when emergency officials arrived, Orlando was already back on the platform.

“We checked out under the train and found that he was not trapped; he was just in between the rails,” said O’Sullivan, who is assigned to Engine Co. 37. “It must have been a lucky day for him. This definitely is a miracle.”

Williams was placed on a backboard and in a neck brace. “We lifted him up onto the platform, we treated him for a laceration to his head, and we turned him over to EMS,” O’Sullivan said, amazed.

Orlando’s feat showed the pooch is the Wesley Autrey of the canine world. Six years ago, Autrey made international headlines by jumping down onto the railbed and lying on top of teen Cameron Hollopter as a No. 1 train passed over them in Manhattan. Hollopter had had a seizure and fell onto the tracks at the 137th St./City College station.

So far this year, 144 riders have been hit by subway trains, and 52 have died, according to the MTA. Since 2001, an average of 134 people a year have been hit by subway trains, and 49 people on average have died, records show.

The News reported exclusively on Thursday that the MTA is about to start testing “intrusion detection” systems which would alert train operators when someone is on the tracks. The four technologies being tested involve motion-detection sensors, radio frequencies, thermal-image cameras and an “intelligent video” computer program designed to recognize when someone has left the platform.

Transport Workers Union Local 100 contends the MTA could save lives immediately by telling motormen to reduce speeds when entering stations.

“The ability to stop is an important factor in saving people’s lives, and that should be a priority for the MTA,” said Local 100 Vice President Kevin Harrington.

Orlando's Job
He's a dog that did exactly what he was trained to do, a veteran trainer told the Daily News.

Orlando, a black Lab, is being hailed a hero for sticking by Cecil Williams’ side when the 60-year-old Brooklyn man fainted Tuesday and tumbled on the subway tracks in Harlem.

“It sounds like it was an attempt on the dog’s part to help him in any way he could.

That’s what they’re trained to do, to protect the owner from what the dog perceives as a danger,” said Beth Hollier, who trains guide dogs for Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

Guide dogs go through up to three years of training, starting as pups, before being put to work. “They learn to cross streets, not walking off the edge of anything, negotiate sidewalks,” said Hollier.

 Cecil Williams pets his guide dog Orlando in his hospital bed after he fainted and fell onto the subway tracks Tuesday in at the 125th St. station in New York.

MTA workers shouted for Williams and Orlando to lie down in the subway track bed, sparing them from being hit by the train.

    Orlando, who is being hailed a hero, did exactly what he was supposed to, a veteran trainer told The News.

                                        Emergency workers respond to the A train platform at the 125th St. station.

                           Williams and Orlando managed to put their heads down just seconds before the A train arrived.

                                                          FDNY rescuer Danny O’Sullivan called it a 'miracle.'

                                      Orlando, a black Labrador retriever, would not leave Williams’ side after he fainted.

                                                Hero MTA worker Larmont Smith yelled for victim to get down.

                                                            Williams is recovering in hospital after his near-miss.