On the night of September 5, Connor Ray, Rommel Primus and William Bagley were taking their New York & Atlantic Railway train toward the Brooklyn Army Terminal when they spotted an 80-year-old woman sitting on the railhead.
Primus, the conductor that night, immediately told Bagley, a 14-year engineer, to stop the train. As it slowed down, Ray, a 24-year-old from Glendale, jumped off the rear of the train and tackled her off the rail.
“I jumped up,” he said. “I was in a state of shock immediately.”
The woman, whom police officials later said suffered from an early stage of dementia, rolled over, but her legs got caught under the last car, which has two wheels, Ray said.
Fortunately, Primus, an army veteran, took off his belt immediately and applied a tourniquet. Ray, meanwhile, sprinted toward First Avenue, remembering there was an NYPD Canine Unit nearby.
“I ran up, I started yelling for help,” he said. “Police came out immediately.
“After that, we were trying to wrap our heads around what just happened, it didn’t feel real,” Ray added. “And it still doesn’t.”
According to reports, the elderly woman was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center, where doctors tried to reattach her right foot, which was severed. Ray said last he heard, she was still alive.
“I saw it all happen,” he said. “She didn’t say a word, she wasn’t yelling. Nothing.”
Ray said he didn’t feel like a hero that night, he just wants things to go back to normal.
“I never want to go through that again. It’s just something you did, you don’t think twice about it,” he said. “It happened so quickly, but it felt like so long.”
He praised his friend and colleague Primus for applying tourniquet, which Ray said never crossed his mind.
“Thank God Prime was with us that night,” he said. “He’s the real hero because he knew what to do and he stayed calm.”
Marlon Taylor, vice president of New York & Atlantic Railway, said after 20 years on the job he has never seen this level of attention and focus from a crew.
“They did this textbook,” he said. “I don’t know that, no matter who was on the train that night, we could’ve gotten a better result.
“I couldn’t have done it better,” Taylor added. “We’re extremely proud of them.”
To award Ray, Bagley and Primus for their heroic deeds, the company is donating $2,000 to a nonprofit of their choice. Ray chose the Alzheimer’s Association of New York because the victim suffered from dementia.
Ray said his paternal grandmother suffered from a form of dementia. He recalled that though she lived in a different state, their weekly conversations consisted of her asking him “the same questions over and over again.”
“It’s good that we’re addressing Alzheimer’s and bringing more light to it,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest positive out of this whole situation.”
Christopher Smith, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association’s New York City chapter, said it was heroic that all three of them acted without a second thought.
Six out of 10 people with dementia wander, according to the organization, and often into life-threatening situations like the 80-year-old victim. Part of the Alzheimer’s Association’s goal, Smith said, is to help families and caregivers who are dealing with these difficult situations.
“They wake up and they don’t know where they are. If they don’t recognize the place, they try to find out, ‘where’s my home,’” he said. “It’s very challenging to deal with that.”
The $2,000 will help support the association’s many programs, including a 24/7 hotline that connects callers with care specialists who can speak multiple languages. The consultants finds out what’s happening and refer them to help based on where they live.
The next morning, the case will be referred back to the office, where specialists work with families on next steps.
The three heroes were later honored at the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) Division 269 union dinner in Woodbury on November 10.
“These men are 100 percent true professionals,” said Kevin Sexton, Division 269’s general chairman,. “They responded to the situation selflessly and their actions were heroic.”