SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) announced Tuesday it will honor a FrontRunner train operator who saved the life of a boy with autism.
Francis Rendon, using both experience and intuition, located a shivering, eight-year-old autistic boy underneath his train one night, recognized that he had a disability, and safely returned the child to his mother and police.
Rendon was operating the train and was approaching Layton Station heading northbound. He saw the figure of a young trespasser running toward the track his train was on, so he sounded the horn and stopped the locomotive.
After bringing the engine to a stop, Rendon said he saw the small figure disappear into the darkness near the train. Rendon received authorization from the FrontRunner control room and exited the cabin to search for the young trespasser.
Rendon saw no sign of the child and decided it was safe for him to pull the train to the station. However, he said he had a feeling that stopped him from moving the locomotive any further.
“I just needed to be sure before I moved the train,” he said.
Rendon, being an experienced conductor, checked one last place before he got back into the cabin. There, he saw a small boy, looking frightened and cold.
Rendon guessed the boy might have had a disability, so he gently coaxed him from under the train.
“I just asked him, buddy…you look cold,” Rendon said. “You want to get on a warm train?”
Rendon picked the boy up and put him safely on board the train. He pulled up to the station, where the boy’s mother was waiting with Layton police.
“My son is autistic and has a hard time communicating,” Ashley Kofford, the boy’s mother, said. ““When he’s bored he tends to wander. I noticed the house had gotten quiet so I went looking for him and couldn’t find him. I went into the backyard and noticed FrontRunner had stopped. It doesn’t usually stop outside my house so I called 911.”
UTA will present Rendon with a certificate of excellence after saving the boy’s life.
“That guy (Rendon) saved my life,” said Kofford. “My son is my life. If something had happened to him I wouldn’t have been able to survive it.”
As for Rendon, he didn’t feel like he did anything too special.
“I really don’t feel like I’m special, Rendon said. “This my job and my job includes getting out of that train and double checking to make sure.”
UTA arranged for Kofford to meet with Rendon on Wednesday, to thank him for saving her young boy’s life.