The engineer of Train 917 saw the runaway freight car barreling down the track toward his stopped commuter train Tuesday night in Canton, but he did not jump. Ronald Gomes’ split-second decision to stay in the train cab so he could radio for help has train officials calling him a hero. He is being credited with preventing a bad accident from becoming a major disaster. CLICK HERE to listen to the dramatic 9-1-1 call.
The engineer of train 917 saw the runaway freight car barreling down the track toward his train, but he didn’t jump.
Ronald Gomes has earned high praise for his split-second decision to stay in the train cab so he could radio for help.
``I’m somewhat in awe of his professional discipline, and I’m extremely proud,'' said Gerry DeModena, general road foreman for the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail Co.. ``I would call his actions heroic, and those of the crew.''
CLICK HERE to listen to the dramatic 9-1-1 call.
About half of the 300 passengers aboard the train bound for Stoughton on Tuesday evening suffered minor injuries in the crash. But it could have been much worse – people could have been killed, police and train officials say, if not for the quick action of the train’s crew.
Gomes, 61, conductor Richard Platt, 44, both of Rehoboth, and assistant conductor Christopher Leaman, 39, of Marshfield, were in charge shortly after 5 p.m. when the train was hit by a freight car filled with lumber.
All three suffered minor injuries, but only Gomes was hospitalized. He was released Wednesday morning after being treated for facial injuries, including broken teeth.
Following protocol, Gomes stopped the train after track signals alerted him at 5:13 p.m. to a problem ahead.
He did not know initially that the problem was a boxcar that had rolled onto the tracks three miles away and was headed toward the commuter train filled with people. A worker at Cohenno Inc. on Evans Drive in Stoughton called police to report the runaway car.
At 5:14 p.m., the boxcar passed through the grade crossing at Canton Center and triggered a red light on the commuter train cab’s control deck that told Gomes that there was something on the tracks ahead. Seconds later, Gomes saw the freight car heading right at the train. Following protocol, Gomes radioed in to ask permission to put the train in reverse. Gomes alerted the conductors so they could warn the passengers to brace for impact.
``He could have opted to climb off the train but he didn’t. He held his post,'' DeModena said. ``Ronny stayed in the cab to call and give his position.''
The impact ``slammed the engineer all over the cab,'' DeModena said. ``(Gomes) got up, covered with blood, and got back on the radio and called with his position to get help for the passengers.''
DeModena said that if Gomes hadn’t warned the conductors, ``I think it would have been far more disastrous.''
Nancy Reardon may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.