Blind man who fell onto subway tracks rejoices at help from others
NEW YORK (CNN) — A blind man who survived a fall onto New York subway tracks with his Labrador retriever service dog on Wednesday credited his good fortune to the help of others during a season of good will.
“It’s a time to rejoice,” Cecil Williams, said through tears, his trusty black Lab, Orlando, at his side. He called his sidekick, “My best buddy, my pal.”
A day after passing out and falling onto subway tracks in Harlem, Williams spoke to reporters at St. Luke’s Hospital, where he was admitted with relatively minor injuries.
Williams, 61, who has been blind since 1995, said he may have fainted because of his diabetes and the mixture of medications he was taking.
“My blood pressure and sugar was going up and down,” he said. “I guess it got too high and I passed out.”
The fall happened around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the 125th Street station in Harlem, a New York transit spokeswoman said.
Williams said Orlando tried to pull him back, but both fell to the tracks, where Orlando licked his face.
A employee with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority tried to calm Williams. The employee instructed Williams to lay flat in a shallow trough between the rails as the A train roared into to the station, said transit spokeswoman Marisa Baldeo.
The train’s motorman applied the brakes when he noticed Williams on the tracks, but the train stopped after one and a half cars went over Williams and Orlando.
Anthony Duncan, the first police officer on the scene, said he couldn’t believe Williams and his dog were under the train, although they were not pinned down.
“I thought he was not with us anymore,” Duncan said. “Then I started shouting, ‘Are you OK? Are you all right? Then I saw his head move. At that point it was just instinct, I did what I was trained to do.”
Duncan and a transit worker pulled Williams and Orlando out from under the train and moved them away from the electrified third rail before the fire department showed up.
Firefighters removed Williams on a backboard, officials said. Williams was semi-coherent and only managed to give his name. He asked about his service dog and little else, according to a fire department statement.
Duncan called Williams “the miracle man” and advised him to buy a lottery ticket.
At the news conference, Williams wiped away tears.
“I’m not a crybaby or nothing but my eyes are misty and I’m teary right now, because you know, things like this don’t happen for everybody,” he said.
St. Luke’s Hospital admitted Williams for routine testing and observation. He was expected to go home Thursday morning, said Jeffrey Rabrich, medical director at St. Luke’s emergency department.
Orlando appeared unharmed. The canine had not yet undergone a veterinary examination but the police K-9 unit checked the dog out and took him for a walk, Williams said.
Williams said Orlando is a good match because they have a similar demeanor. Orlando was to be retired as a service dog but a last-minute anonymous donation will enable Williams to keep the Lab as a pet.
“He’s a gentleman, Williams said. “He’s a gentle soul.”