Saturday night, when an elderly man unfamiliar with the area turned right off of Sutton Boulevard onto the Union Pacific tracks instead of Greenwood Boulevard and got stuck there, he was pulled from his car by Foley’s Bar customers a minute before a train slammed into it.
On Monday, two of those who helped, Richard Sykora and Jeff Summers, were back at Foley’s and told what happened.
According to Sykora: “Jeff Summers and I, we were standing here inside the bar, playing the Golden Tee game, I happened to walk outside the door. I saw that there was a car that had turned onto the train tracks — came down Sutton, turned right early and went on the train tracks, and the car was smoking, and I could tell it was stuck there.
“So I turned around, the door was still open, and I said, ‘car on the tracks,’ or ‘help,’ or whatever. He and I and a couple other people, we ran out there, and we found, there was an elderly gentleman, 75 years old. I don’t know what his last name was. His first name was Dave.
“He had mistakenly turned onto the tracks. He was confused. His transmission was messed up. He was trying to get off the tracks.
“We initially tried to push the car. We couldn’t push the car off, then we decided, well the trains come through here often enough so lets get him out of the car. We were telling him to get out: ‘out of the car, out of the car.’
“He didn’t really want to get out of the car. He was confused about what was going on. The window was down fortunately. I was able to reach through the window and unlock it and open the door and Jeff and I were able to get him out of there. Jeff took him off the tracks.
“I actually jumped in the car thinking I could put it in reverse. As soon as I did that, as soon as I sat down, my friend Dave said, ‘there’s a train coming,’ and we all cleared the tracks.
“Foolishly, I ran towards the train and tried to stop it but there was no stopping it. It slammed on its brakes as soon as it saw it – blowing its horn – pushed it all the way down to Big Bend.
“Within about 45 seconds of getting him out of there the train cam around the bend. There was no stopping it.
“The good thing was, Gina Imo, one of the bartenders, she was great. We brought him inside, she sat him down here. She helped him look through his wallet to find his ID. Got him a water. The police spoke to him. The ambulance came, got his vitals checked. She sat with him for a good hour and a half.
“A friend of mine, Dave Moleski, spent a lot of time on the gentleman’s cell phone talking to relative down in Chattanooga, Tennessee. They were able to put him in touch with a family friend out in Fenton, then Gina and Dave drove the gentleman back to his family.”
Sykora said something should be done to make the intersection safer:
“The thing is, it’s too dark out there, there’s no blockers to prevent that. I’ve seen about five or six times in the last two years that a car has accidentally turned there because it’s too dark and kind of hard to navigate. Especially in rain or inclement weather it’s really hard to see.
“The city of Maplewood or Union Pacific has to do something putting up a barrier — things that stop a person from turning there, or stop sign at that two-way intersection, or better lighting so you can see where you’re going.”
Gina Imo told what she did: “We all kind of ran out the same time. They got to the car first. I told the bartender to call 911. I was on the phone with Terry’s Towing, thinking maybe if we could get that there they could pull it off.
“Once they got the window open to unlock it, and Jeff was walking with him and I realized he needed a little help, and all of a sudden we saw that train. I was like, ‘woah.’
“The poor guy, he knew he did something wrong. Took him to some in-laws in Fenton and made sure he got where he needed to go. He was super sweet, super kind.
“I’m just thankful we were at the right place at the right time. It started with Rich, went out and seeing him and came back in and a group of guys ran out. I knew something was up.
“It could have been worse. It could have been way worse. Within a minute — and they come fast. Those trains come very fast around the bend. He sounded his horn, and we could see him lock up the brakes.
“By the time we got him out of the vehicle, and looked, there was a train — probably less than 30 seconds and he got here. It was so quick.
“We sat here afterwards, it was a party atmosphere, there were a lot of people, a lot of things going on. We were like, ‘what just happened,’ after we delivered him home. OK, I think we deserve a beverage.”
Gina Imo took this video