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Engineer recounts moment of impact after Utah trooper rescues driver from oncoming train

Posted at 9:42 PM, Oct 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-17 09:07:28-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The man at the control of a Utah Transit Authority FrontRunner train that hit a car stuck on the track is sharing his account of the incident.

In a Facebook post, Riley Nelson writes fate and heroism helped save the life of the man who was unconscious on the tracks in Centerville.

Body camera video of the incident shows a Utah Highway Patrol Trooper risking his life to pull the man to safety.

Nelson watched the incident unfold from the controls of the train. He noticed something on the track from less than a mile away and acted fast.

“I couldn't be sure what was going on until I was about 3/4 mile away. That was when I realized it was a car on the tracks, and I threw on the emergency brake and prayed that I was wrong and I wouldn't hit anything,” Nelson described. “For a split second I thought I would stop short, but trains take a long time to stop.”

As he tried to get the train to slow down, Nelson watched as Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Ruben Correa rescued the man from the car.

“I could see that someone was trying to get the driver out of the car. The Trooper didn't turn on his forward-facing blue and red lights, so I didn’t know it was UHP. Just as they went out of view, I saw the Trooper physically haul the guy out of the car barely even a second before impact,” Nelson wrote.

Nelson says Trooper Correa is a hero. He also believes fate played a role in making sure this wasn’t a tragedy. Nelson said he was five minutes late arriving to his train because he missed an early morning shuttle. That small delay may have made the rescue possible.

“In normal circumstances, I would be passing through the area the accident occurred about 3 minutes earlier. That means I would have most certainly hit the car and this would most likely be a fatality accident,” Nelson said.

He believes his prayers were answered and many factors fell into place, ensuring the stranded driver was not harmed.
Nobody was injured in the crash.

UTA says Nelson is an unsung hero for activating the brakes and slowing the train down before impact.