Just 27 seconds. That's all the time MBTA Orange Line operator Charise Lewis had to stop her train.
MBTA security camera images released Monday show that as Lewis headed into North Station, she had just seconds to pull the emergency brake to avoid hitting a woman who had fallen on the track.
Lewis had seen panicked passengers on the platform flailing their arms. Moments later, she heard station inspector Jacqueline Osorio transmit an urgent message over the onboard radio: Pull the emergency break — fast.
Lewis managed to stop the train just inches from where the woman lay on the track.
"The most exciting part for me is she crawled out from under."
--Operator Charise Lewis
“Afterward she came up with a big smile on her face, and I’m like ‘Oh my God, you really scared me',” Lewis said. “The most exciting part for me is she crawled out from under.”
The woman has not been officially identified. The 26-year-old later told police she had been drinking for several hours before falling off the North Station platform. She was briefly hospitalized for cuts and scrapes but is otherwise unharmed.
Lewis, the MBTA Orange Line operator, has been driving the heavy rail trains for three years with an excellent record, said MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo.
"It was a true act of heroism," said State Transportation Secretary Jeffery Mullan. He awarded Lewis and Osorio formal commendations at Monday's MBTA board meeting.
"This is a fine illustration of transit professionals. They are quite literally lifesavers," Mullan said.
The quick thinking and happy outcome was a much needed boost for the beleaguered Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, an agency still reeling from two high-profile crashes on the Green Line. Both crashes were attributed to operator error.
Last week, an unidentified person was struck and killed by a commuter train in Franklin. The case is under investigation.
The T was also the focus of a scathing report commissioned by Gov. Deval Patrick. The report, revealed last week, identified extreme financial difficulties at the agency that have created a huge backlog of safety-related projects on the T.
Lewis and Osorio, who received calls from Patrick, and a standing ovation at Monday's MBTA Board meeting, were humble.
"It's just me doing my job," Lewis said. "I was doing what I was trained to do, and I'm just glad that the people on the platform were able to let me know something was going on."
The 27-Second Sequence:
This program aired on November 9, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.