A blind man and his guide dog fell onto a New York City subway track just as a train was approaching. But thanks to the black Labrador's quick-thinking, both dog and man escaped with relatively minor injuries.
Sixty-one-year-old Cecil Williams lost consciousness while waiting at the 125th Street station in upper Manhattan, according to the Associated Press. That's when he and his guide dog, Orlando, fell onto the tracks.
Speaking from his hospital bed, Williams told the AP that he was on his way to see the dentist around 9:30 a.m. when he began to feel faint. Williams said Orlando tried to hold him up but couldn't keep him from falling onto the tracks.
“When the train came in, I screamed really loud, because I didn’t know what happened to him,” Danya Gutierez told CBS New York. ”I thought he was hit.”
Via CBS New York:
An A Train was not yet into the station when people on the platform said Williams and his dog fell backward onto the tracks.
“We saw when he fell down to the tracks and his dog fell with him as well,” Gutierez said. “And everyone started freaking out.”
Williams credited Orlando, who is trained to keep his owner safe in busy areas, with saving him. "The dog saved my life," Williams told the Associated Press.
The New York Post spoke to Ana Quinones, 53, who also witnessed the drama.
Via the New York Post:
“The dog was trying to pull him away from the southbound edge of the platform, but his feet were on the edge, he was wobbling, and the dog was barking,” she said.
The man still fell — and Quinones said Orlando jumped after him.
“But there was nothing he could do once he was down there. He just sat there with the man. He just licked the man’s face trying to get him to move,” she said.
As the train approached, the conductor slammed on the brakes in an effort to keep from hitting the man and the dog. Witnesses told The New York Post that a flagman urged both to move toward the middle of the tracks where the ground is deeper. According to authorities, one and a half cars passed over Williams and Orlando before coming to a stop.
Capt. Daniel O'Sullivan of the FDNY spoke with NBC New York about looking under the train and seeing the man and dog. "He was not trapped; he was just in between the rails," he said. Sullivan said the whole thing "definitely is a miracle," according to NBC New York.
After being rescued, Williams reportedly asked about the condition of his dog, 11, who will be retiring from guide duties soon. Williams suffered a cut on his head. Orlando was unhurt.
Williams said that he plans on giving his pooch a special treat and lots of affection, according to the AP. While Williams shares a bond with Orlando, the two will soon be parting ways. According to the AP, Williams's insurance won't cover the cost of a nonworking dog, so the man will have to give him up to a good home.
Williams, who has been blind since 1995 from meningitis, said that he "would definitely keep him" if he could afford it, according to the AP.
Follow Mike Krumboltz on Twitter at @mikekrumboltz.
- Cecil Williams