EXCLUSIVE: Video Shows Rescue at Va. Square Metro Station

by ARLnow.com October 20, 2010 at 10:10 am 5,520 28 Comments

Dimas Pinzon was dubbed (by us) the Virginia Square Metro Hero after he jumped to the track and stepped over two electrified rails to come to the aid of a man who had fallen in the path of an incoming Metro train.

What Mr. Pinzon did was certainly well-intentioned and brave. But was his act of heroism also incredibly ill-advised?

Surveillance video obtained by ARLnow.com sheds new light on the incident.

The video starts out with a man, who was suffering some sort of medical emergency, walking toward the edge of the platform in a daze. He falls onto the track just as the platform lights begin blinking, signaling the arrival of a train.

Immediately, people at the station jump into action. Good Samaritans on either side of the station sprint toward the train, frantically waving their arms. Mr. Pinzon, in a blue shirt on the opposite platform, points to the crawlspace under the platform, urging the fallen man to get under it to avoid being hit by the train.

The train, however,  slows as it enters the station. As it’s coming to a stop, Pinzon jumps down to the trackbed. He steps on the flimsy cover board of both electrified rails, and comes to the man’s aid. Another would-be hero jumps down to the track, but turns around after a brief stare-down with the third rail.

Pinzon, meanwhile, helps to lift the injured man onto the platform, where other Metro customers evaluate his injuries. Another man helps Pinzon himself get back up to the platform.

Hours later, our interview with Pinzon is published and NBC4 also airs a story on the rescue.

It’s a happy ending, but Metro spokesperson Ron Holzer says it could have taken a much more tragic turn. Had Pinzon tripped while jumping down to the platform, for instance, he would have landed on the third rail and been electrocuted by 750 volts of electricity. Pinzon’s decision to step on the third rail cover was also fraught with danger.

“The cover board is not designed to hold the weight of a human,” he said. “You’re putting yourself in incredible jeopardy.”

“It was an incredibly unsafe move that clearly from the video shouldn’t have taken place,” Holzer continued. “People should never jump to the track,” even if they’re coming to the aid of someone else.

The right thing to do in such an event, according to Holzer, would have been to immediately contact the station manager, who would have halted train arrivals and shut down power to the third rail.

The problem of people jumping down to the track isn’t confined to emergency situations. Holzer says people will risk their lives just to retrieve dropped cell phones and fare cards.

“People jump down to the track all the time, and it’s a problem for us,” Holzer said. “The distance from the platform to the track bed is a lot higher than people perceive… and it’s hard to get back up.”

Holzer says he hopes the surveillance videos don’t encourage others to follow Pinzon’s example.

“It’s definitely a ‘don’t try this at home’ kind of a thing,” he said. “Never, ever, ever, ever drop to the trackbed.”

  • Aaron

    And based on independent reports from other sites, the station manager is likely not do anything at all or won’t even be in their little hut.

    While what Pinzon did was somewhat reckless, without question, he saved that man’s life. I know I would not have the courage to do that. Maybe Metro is trying to make an example out of him?

    But either way, hats off again to you Mr. Pinzon. And Metro build some trust and accountability in your agency so we would feel comfortable and safe trying to get a manager.

    ps Nice job getting the video ARLNow

    • Aaron

      pps, ha, seriously nice to see how fast everyone was to act. Notice the people springing into action, including running up the escalator presumably to the manager’s hut. But look at the location of the train, even if the manager was alerted, it would have been too late.

      • NPGMBR

        No doubt at all. If other passengers tried to:

        1 – Alert the Station Manager
        2 – Station Manager attempt to kill power to 3rd rail (How long does that take)
        3 – Contact train operator to stop

        My guess is that by the time it took all these events to happen the train would have reached the person on the track.

  • el fat kid

    he wouldn’t be a hero if there wasn’t some risk involved. in retrospect it sounds like he could have done some things differently if he was trained in metro emergency rescues. But as a commuter – he responded quickly and with a significant amount of courage.

    also, the person who ran up the platform signaling for the train to stop then coming back to help lift the guy up deserves a lot of credit too.

    pretty amazing how quickly several people on the platform sprung into action.

  • Anton Noosbusch

    I know I’m going to sound like a huge dick, but this didn’t seem nearly as dramatic or impressive as everyone has made it out to be.

    Pinzon was brave to do what he did, there’s absolutely no doubt in that; but what he did was unnecessary. The train had already stopped well before he even jumped down to the trackbed.

    The real heroes are the people who signaled for the train to stop, and the motorman, who was able to stop the train well short of disaster.

    • Andrew

      I guess you could say Pinzon saved the guy from getting up and maybe falling ont the third rail, but he certainly did not save the guy from the train that was already stopped at the other end of the station.

    • Arlingtonian

      I have to agree with you. Pinzon deserves praise for helping the man out, no doubt, but where’s the adulation for the ones who got the train to stop to begin with?

  • PikeHoo

    The guy who flagged the train to a halt is DA MAN!

  • Matt K

    Virginia Square, doors opening right side.

  • TAllen

    Alert the station manager, and once he finishes his break, he’ll wander down to see what all the commotion is about.

  • DudeGuy

    While what he did was brave, I would not call him a Hero, the train was stopped and the man was not moving towards the electrified rail. He was trying to get out. If the train had not stopped and the man was pushed up to the platform then that would be different. Dimas Pinzon only jumped down there when the train was a complete stop. Brave but not a hero in this case. Hero is thrown around too much now. He might have been a hero as a Marine Corps lieutenant colonel but I don’t know about his tours.

  • TGEoA

    Pure balls

  • gcatz

    Selflessness…we need a lot more of that these days. Good for Mr. Pinzon and everyone who thought of someone else’s need and did not hesitate. And very good for the one with the clearheaded notion of signaling the driver. Thank God the driver paid attention!

  • Dave

    With regards to alerting the station manager, I was at Metro Center a couple months ago and there was a guy holding the train door open with his body and holding a large backpack yelling, “Security! I need security!”. I found the closest WMATA employee and told her what was going on. She casually made her way over to the booth and made an announcement, with no real sense of urgency, for the police to go to “the Red Line platform” – she didn’t even bother to say which side. In the meantime the guy is still screaming for “security” and holding a large bag with God knows what in it. The train sat there for probably 5 minutes with this guy screaming before he just gave up and let the doors close.

  • JM

    Pinzon is a hero. It doesn’t matter if the train was slowing down or if, in the end, his part was the critical difference. He acted in a moment of great uncertainty without hesitation. If you’re a soldier and you jump on a grenade that never explodes, are you still a hero? Absolutely.

    I also agree that WMATA is covering their arse here. The station manager is upstairs away from the platform. When seconds count, they’re only a minute away. I echo Dave and Aaron: while some managers are diligent, many are not. When WMATA starts displaying competence in operating their trains, managing their people, and running their business (the SmartCard fiasco is just the latest in gross mismanagement), we’ll start to trust you.

  • reader

    Man, you guys are picky. There’s also quite a lot of footage and stories of other incidents where strangers did absolutely nothing when seeing someone in danger, mainly because they’re afraid or assume someone else will deal with it. I say he’s a hero. We need more like him in this world!

  • Bug

    The reports all said he calmly left the scene and went on to work–he wasn’t ASKING to be called a hero! Give the guy a break.

  • Janet

    Was this post edited?

    I recall reading this earlier today and the quote from Metro either said the person was stupid, idiotic or something along those lines.

    I see its gone now.

  • FX

    “Good Samaritans on either side of the station sprint toward the train, frantically waiting their arms”

    That should be “waving” their arms.

  • innocent bystander

    There are two videos here, and it’s clear that the most helpful person in the station is the gentleman running frantically toward the oncoming train. I’m not knocking the guy that jumped down to help (a lot of people were helping by waving their arms really), but just don’t take away from the guy that stopped the train. If he had not been there, there would have been no heroes that day. The reason I commented is because the media has blown this so out of proportion. You have ALL of the video angles captured that day, and you have the ability to judge for yourself – jumping down on the tracks to help after the train has stopped. Great samaritan. Helpful, as all of us should be. But c’mon, give the dude some due that stopped the friggin’ train!

    • Dave

      If he had not been there [to stop the train], there would have been no heroes that day.

      Actually, that’s the very reason Pinzon jumped down there. He knew about the area under the platform where people can huddle if they’re caught on the tracks when a train comes. If the train operator wasn’t paying attention (which has happened more than a couple times recently), people could have waved their arms all they wanted, the train wouldn’t have stopped. Thankfully it didn’t come to that but getting the man in distress into that safety area would have saved his life, even if the train wasn’t stopped.

  • Brian

    I have been a police officer 20 years and can not tell you how many times I have dealt with a victim of a violent crime or accident who was as upset about the fact that bystanders did nothing as they were about the incident that led to their injuries. It warms my heart to see that so many people reacted so quickly and decisively to the man falling on the track. I watched this video several times and their appears to be no “leader,” just lots of good people acting. I will look at Metro riders a little differant from now on.

  • Arlington

    Wow. Thanks, Metro, for always assigning people near the tracks where people are, instead of assigning people in the little huts. Oh wait, there is NEVER any Metro employees near the tracks. That’s right. That’s why the guy had to risk his own life to save a stranger. Classic scene of the guy in the red shirt stopping dead in his tracks (no pun intended) when he reached the zapper rail. “Hell NO! I ain’t gonna get no eeelectricity zapped into me ass!” he musta been thinking. And what up with the guy using his cell phone to wave as a beacon? Way to go MacGyver! That’ll stop a train coming down the wrong track.

    • Cadde

      I can just tell you that you are lucky for having anyone to call when an emergency hits. Where i live we have NOBODY to call to when things go wrong.

      As for the hero i would say it’s justified even if it was needless but as has been stated many times already. Completely reckless and pointless and more like the effects of shock than a thought through effort.

  • Heroes they are

    I agree with ‘reader.’ I was on a crowded train last spring when a man standing near me collapsed, and people barely flinched. I yelled toward the end of the car for someone to intercom the driver, but people just stared at me like deer in the headlights. Once the doors finally opened, I sprinted at least half the train’s length to get the driver to hold. By the time I got back, one woman was helping the man. It sickens me how hardly anyone reacted – especially when this older gentleman could have been my dad. It brings me hope to hear of stories like this where everyone springs into action instead of staring dumbly, waiting for someone else to react/lead.


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