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.”
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