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UTA FrontRunner Engineer Credits UHP Trooper & ‘Divine Intervention’ For Saving Man’s Life

(Photo: Utah Highway Patrol)

CENTERVILLE, Utah — Utah Transit Authority engineer Riley Nelson spoke about his efforts to slow down his train after he spotted a vehicle stranded on the tracks between Pages and Parish Lane in the Centerville area Wednesday morning.

Nelson credited “divine intervention” and Utah Highway Patrol trooper Ruben Correa for saving the driver’s life after his car crashed onto the FrontRunner tracks.

Video released by UTA Wednesday showed the engineer’s perspective as the train raced towards the vehicle where trooper Correa was pulling out the unconscious driver.

“I saw him basically pull the guy out and they disappeared below my field of view so I didn’t see them get out of the way,” Nelson said. “ I just saw him start pulling and then they disappeared.”

UTA Releases Train Camera From FrontRunner Vs. SUV Crash

YIKES! We just got this video from UTA. It's the dash video from the FrontRunner train involved in yesterday's crash. The operator was able to slow the train down enough to give the trooper an extra few seconds to save the unconscious driver of the SUV stuck on the tracks!More info here:

Posted by KSL 5 TV on Thursday, October 17, 2019

Nelson said he initially didn’t know if the trooper and driver had cleared the way.

On Thursday, Nelson was credited as the unsung hero for his actions in slowing down the train.

“It was precious seconds but they were precious seconds that might be the difference between life and death,” said UTA spokesperson Carl Arky.

According to Arky, Nelson only had about 21 seconds before impact when he spotted the vehicle on the tracks less than a mile away.

Nelson initially thought the vehicle’s lights were a reflection of the morning traffic on the rails. But soon after, he realized it was an SUV.

“At that time I put the train into emergency brake,” Nelson said.

This slowed down the train from 79 mph to about 30 mph, according to Arky, as Nelson spotted the driver and trooper.

“When you review the footage, you can see it really was a close call,” Nelson said.

The train plowed through the SUV a few seconds after Correa pulled the driver out.

On Thursday, Nelson refused to take any credit saying it belongs to Correa.

“He’s the true hero of this whole thing. He’s the one that put his life on the line,” Nelson said. “I got to shake his hand at the scene and tell him that was some dang fine heroism on his part.”

However, Nelson said something else was also at play that triggered a sequence of events that started hours before the train left the station, including people calling in sick, his shuttle running late, and his late departure from the station.

“There was definitely some divine intervention going on,” Nelson said. “I don’t believe people calling in sick and my being late to the station was a coincidence. I don’t believe in coincidences.”

According to Nelson, those circumstances delayed the train by three minutes, which made all the difference.

“If I had been going through there on time, on the scheduled time, I would’ve definitely made it there before the state trooper, and the whole outcome would’ve been very different,” he said.

UTA officials said they have about 50 engineers operating their trains.

LIVE: FrontRunner operator speaks about crash

LIVE: UTA FrontRunner operator Riley Nelson is speaking about the Wednesday crash where a UHP trooper pulled a man to safety before his SUV was hit by a train

Posted by KSL 5 TV on Thursday, October 17, 2019