Man spots car on the tracks, goes to investigate. But who was inside—he knew there was no time

January 19, 2018 11:36 am Last Updated: January 19, 2018 11:36 am

As a civil right’s leader, 63-year-old Walter Wilson has had a long history of being brave. Over the years, he’s spoken his mind about many issues affecting his community. Yet recently he displayed a different kind of bravery, the kind that occurs during times of extreme danger and provides little time for thought.

On January 11, the California resident was driving to Home Depot to get supplies for his son’s school project when he saw a car had turned onto the train tracks and stopped right in the middle. He parked as soon as he could, turned on his hazard lights, and ran over to the car to see if there was anyone inside. As it turned out, there was.

An old woman was behind the wheel. Wilson looked in both directions. It didn’t seem like any trains were approaching, so Wilson tried to get the woman to back up enough to get into the intersection. Yet the woman seemed confused by Wilson’s directions.

Wilson tried to help the elderly lady get her car off the tracks, but he soon realized they were running out of time.

(KRON 4 News/Screenshot)

When Wilson looked up again, he saw the bright lights of an oncoming train.  Not wanting to get the woman killed, he needed to quickly re-evaluate his strategy.

“When I looked up and saw that train, I thought, ‘Do I have time to get this car off this track?’ ” Wilson told The Mercury News. “’No, I don’t have time. Forget this car. Let’s get this lady to safety.’”

“We’ve got to move, and move fast,” Wilson said.

(KRON 4 News/Screenshot)

He unbuckled her seat belt and pulled her out of the car onto the sidewalk. The car was 45 to 50 feet away from the intersection, and it didn’t take long for the train to reach it. Seconds later the two collided. Had Wilson not helped the woman right then and there, she would have been toast!

“The train hit that car and it crumbled like a piece of paper,” said Wilson.

Not only that but it pushed the car roughly 100 feet until it flipped in the air!

It’s a good thing Wilson remembered a piece of knowledge he learned many moons ago: trains move a lot faster than you think.


According to NBC Bay Area, the train experienced minor delays but a tow truck arrived at the tracks less than an hour later to pick up the damaged car. Ultimately, Caltrain was thankful for how the situation was handled.

“Whenever we can avoid any sort of tragic situation, as we did [that] night, I think it’s a great thing,” Caltrain spokesperson Tasha Bartholomew told The Mercury News. “I think we need more concerned citizens that look out for each other.

“I’m grateful that gentleman thought enough to check on the woman. He knew it wasn’t safe for her to stay in her vehicle. For me, and as an agency, we appreciate that people are looking out for each other.”

The following day, public safety and transit officials honored Wilson as a hero and he certainly deserved it! Wilson had no prior connection with this woman. He still doesn’t even know her name. Yet he stepped in to save her all the same. Even outside the context of civil rights, he’s proven that he’s a fantastic leader!

“My act may be perceived as heroic, but at the end of the day, I did what a humane person would do and that is to save someone else’s family,” Wilson told KRON 4 News.