CHICAGO (CBS) — Next week, a suburban teen and a police officer will get national recognition for their quick thinking against an oncoming train. The Federal Railroad Administration will honor their teamwork that saved a man’s life.
It’s a story you’ll see only on CBS 2. Morning Insider Lauren Victory shares the harrowing tale from both heroes.
It only takes seconds for a train to barrel by, and in an instant instinct kicked in for Glenbrook North senior Jack Fitzharris and his friends.
“I saw the car on the tracks,” Fitzharris said. “It kind of looked like they took a right onto the train tracks, and got stuck.”
“I was like, ‘This isn’t right.’ So I called the police, because I didn’t know how to get in contact with the train,” he added.
Neither did Deerfield Police Officer Kasey Kuhlers. Video from his dashboard camera that night shows a train approaching ,full speed ahead.
“I kind of just stopped there for a second and thought, ‘Well, that’s not good.’ Like, how, what exactly am I gonna do to try to remedy this situation?” Kuhlers said.
Then, a literal lightbulb. Kuhlers used the spotlight on his squad car to try to signal the train.
“Just started waving it as best I could, and signaling to them,” Kuhlers said. “Just started moving it up and down, waving it back and forth.”
Over and over, Kuhlers tried to signal who he hoped was the train engineer.
As the Deerfield officer was racing the train down Waukegan Road, Bannockburn Police were at the Half Day crossing, pulling the intoxicated driver from the SUV.
“There was no screeching of brakes or anything like that. It wasn’t very Hollywood dramatic,” Kuhlers said.
The train slowed and stopped about 600 feet short of a collision. The engineer hopped out with a message.
“He took his glove off real quick, and held his hand out to shake my hand, and he’s like, ‘Thank you,’” Kuhlers said.
Gratitude that extended to Fitzharris and his friends, too.
“Wow we just did that,” Fitzharris recalled. “At the same time, it was also like, ‘What if we didn’t?”
“It basically shows how a normal citizen can make a call to 911 that can put people in motion that can actually have real life implications and save a life,” Kuhlers said.
Illinois rail safety experts say there’s another important thing the caller could have done. Blue signs posted at crossings include an emergency phone number and a specific code that will give dispatchers your exact coordinates and alert train engineers to an emergency.
Officers from Bannockburn Police Department will be also honored in a separate ceremony by Illinois Operation Lifesaver. They’re the ones who pulled the man from car and arrested him for driving under the influence.