The secretary & treasurer of SMART-TD Local 464 (Arkansas City, Kan.) rendered medical assistance to a teen who was found bleeding from a head wound on the side of the tracks in mid-February, saving the boy’s life.
Jason Schwartz, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom during the battle of Fallujah in November 2003 and a TD member since 2006, described the situation:
“Today I was faced with a decision that ultimately changed the outcome for a 16-year-old kid.
“I was called out of Oklahoma City and took a train north to Arkansas City. At 1705, a southbound Z-train dialed up the emergency tone for DS-21 and advised they may have seen a kid/body on the right of way of the main line, and he looked to be dead.
“I was stopped in the siding meeting the Z-train, and without hesitation I donned my gear and headed to the location where the body was said to be. I took to foot and walked … to check on what the Z-train was reporting.
“When I got 30 yards away from the body, I called out, ‘Hey boy, hey buddy, I’m here to help!’ I didn’t know if the person was dead or alive, but I still wanted to announce I was there just in case the person was in a mad state of mind. I got about 10 yards away and saw the kid was still breathing and radioed, ‘We need an ambulance asap, he’s still alive,’ I opened my phone to take a video to show he was alive when I arrived in case he died in between the time I found him and when paramedics arrived.
“I gave the kid my Carhartt coat to reduce the risk of shock and hypothermia and help talk to the kid to keep him conscious. The kid had a major blow to the center of his forehead where it appeared he went headfirst into the spike and rail, maybe causing a skull fracture, and mangled his face up pretty bad.
“He lost lots of blood but was conscious to answer a few questions,” Schwartz said. “It was hard to make out what he was saying due to the blood coming from a 1.5-inch gash in his mouth.”
Paramedics arrived and Schwartz helped to bandage the teen’s head wound and to carry him out to where the boy would eventually be airlifted to Oklahoma University Medical Center for treatment. A sheriff’s deputy reported to management
that the actions of Schwartz, who is also his local’s legislative representative and GCA-020 secretary, were considered to be life-saving.
“The sheriff deputy told the road foreman that I went ‘above and beyond,’ but I would have done it for anybody,” Schwartz said later in a phone interview.
A big factor was the mindset he gained from his nine years in the Marines — “seek and save” — didn’t allow him to be passive when the situation presented itself, Schwartz said.
That’s why he walked a mile and a half to the site, focused on stopping the boy’s bleeding and sacrificed his coat to stave off shock for the victim.
“My Marine Corps instinct was there to get up and help,” he said. “If I’m in a position to help, it was just first nature.”
Schwartz visited the teen, who apparently had fallen from a train he had jumped on, in the hospital. Schwartz, familiar with the stretch where he found the teen, said the train could have been going as fast as 50 mph. The teen had a broken nose, fractured cheekbone and went through surgery to have a titanium plate inserted to help stabilize his head injuries with additional surgeries slated for jaw and dental repair, Schwartz said.
The conductor later received a letter from the teen’s adopted mother and biological sister thanking him for his life-saving aid.
“They were very, very thankful, and let me know that he was doing well,” Schwartz said. “This easily could’ve been the worst-case scenario.”
The teen’s position close to the tracks where Schwartz found him put him in jeopardy of getting hit by a passing train, and a video of the scene taken by Schwartz shows that the teen collapsed on the ballast.
“For all the thousands in technology, not one penny of it would have detected that person next to the tracks,” Schwartz said. “He was inches away from the cattle guard on the leading unit. He could have been
struck by the step rungs … PTC is signal-to-signal. There’s nothing there to warn the crew of an object on or near the tracks.”
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