Chesterton Tribune

Heroes who risked lives to save woman from train commended

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Three local men who risked their lives in January to save a woman who had driven her car onto the Norfolk Southern railroad tracksódirectly in front of an oncoming freight trainówere honored by the Chesterton Police Commission on Thursday.

The heroes: Justin Jeffress, Dustin Paliga, and Kyle Hodgson.

"Aside from being in the right place at the right time," Police Chief Dave Cincoski said, in making a presentation to the lifesavers, "these three young men had the fortitude and wherewithal to observe and recognize the danger for the driver of the car. In the face of the oncoming train, without regard for their own safety, these young men pulled the female from the car which, only moments later, was struck by the train and burst into flames."

"I can only imagine the thoughts that went through the minds of these young men," Cincoski said. "If it were not for the selfless acts of heroism and bravery, this outcome, as I've been told, would have had disastrous results. A young woman is alive today because of the courageous acts of these young men."

Cincoski then presented each with a plaque "in honor of their heroism and bravery in the face of imminent danger."

Cincoski added that he has nominated all three for the Carnegie Hero Award, presented to persons "who risk their live to an extraordinary degree, performing acts of heroism based on the Biblical principle that greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

The incident began at 2:55 a.m. Jan. 26, when Jeffress, Paliga, and Hodgson observed a woman slumped over the steering wheel of her 2002 Honda Accord, stopped in the southbound lane of Calumet Road, directly on the Norfolk Southern tracks. They succeeded in rousing the woman, who immediately made a left turn and drove down the tracks eastbound, coming to a stop nearly 300 feet east of the Calumet Road grade-crossing. There, having run after her, they managed to pull the woman from her Honda, just before an eastbound freight train, hauling 14 cars, barreled into the Accord, pushing it a further 183 feet to the east.

The car promptly burst into flames.

The woman herself was arrested on a charge of operating while intoxicated after she registered a blood alcohol content of .25 percent, more than four times the legal threshold of .08 percent.

"How can you not get choked up," Member Alex Rodriguez said after the presentation. "Maybe I sound pollyanish sometimes talking about the closeness of this community. But this is a wonderful place to live. From the bottom of my heart, God bless you and thank you."

"A plaque is just a small token," President Craig Stafford said. "Thank you so much for what you did that evening."


Posted 3/11/2011