Heroic train conductor spots and saves 3-year-old autistic, nonverbal boy lost on tracks
He was dangerously close to the third rail.
Five Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees are hailed as heroes for their quick thinking and diligence in the April 6 rescue of a young boy. Locomotive Engineer William Kennedy was operating a southbound Hudson Line train near Tarrytown, a few miles north of New York City, when he noticed an unusual object on the northbound track.
That “object” was a 3-year-old boy.
Kennedy sent an emergency call out to all trains in the area, catching the attention of a northbound conductor, Shawn Loughran, and a trainee. Loughran slowed down his train as he approached the child, who was straddling the electrified third rail.
When the train screeched to a halt, Assistant Conductor Marcus Higgins didn't waste a second. Leaping down the tracks, he sprinted 40 yards ahead of the train, scooping up the young child like a guardian angel.
"The timing couldn't have been more perfect, you know. If it was a minute later [or] a minute sooner I wouldn't have seen him," Kennedy told Fox 5 New York, adding that if the child would have touched the third rail, he "would have been hurt really bad."
"Physically, he seemed ok, we didn't know at the time that he was autistic, non-verbal,” Higgins told Fox 5. When they got him off the tracks, Higgins says he “had a smile on his face."
Safely cradling the little one, Higgins whisked him on board the train, and the crew set off towards Tarrytown Station. When they arrived, they were greeted by MTAPD officers and Tarrytown EMS, ready to ensure the child's safety.
During the daring rescue, the boy's mother and sister frantically looked for the child. They were spotted by police sobbing on a street corner. The police put two and two together and reunited the boy with his family at the station. The mother told the MTA employees that the boy was autistic and nonverbal.
Five MTA employees were awarded commendations for their daring rescue of the boy.
MTA Metro-North President and Interim Long Island Rail Road President Catherine Rinaldi presents heroism commendations to Metro-North Assistant Conductor Marcus Higgins and Locomotive Engineer William Kennedy at the Railroad Committee meeting at Headquarters on Monday, Apr 24, 2023.
Photo by Marc A. Hermann / MTA
“These fine team members embodied the qualities we want our employees to exhibit while on duty, alert, responsive, knowledgeable and helpful,” Metro-North Railroad President and Interim LIRR President Catherine Rinaldi said. “With the bravery and calm comportment of superheroes, they averted a horrific outcome and saw to it that this little boy was not going to become a statistic. We salute their efforts and compassion and heartily thank them for their dedication to the people we serve.”
Chris Fraina (left) and Max Chong (right) are signal maintainers who saw the mother crying while on their way to work and, having heard about the found child, approached the mother. Reunion with the child followed at Tarrytown Station.
Photo credit: Rob Cervini/Metro-North Railroad
“Everybody’s quick thinking and the perfect timing allowed us to get this child off the tracks and back to his family,” Kennedy said in a statement. “In the heat of the moment, when you see a child in this situation, your first instinct is to make sure they’re safe,” Assistant Conductor Marcus Higgins said in a statement. “I’m glad our crew was there and able to help.”
“I’m just so happy it all worked out, and everything fell into place,” Locomotive Engineer Shawn Loughran said.
“It’s a great feeling knowing that we were able to help reunite this family,” Signal Maintainer Christopher Fraina said. “In those minutes that must have felt like hours to them, I’m so glad we were in the right place at the right time.”