Saturday, 2:15 PM
Train crew recognized for actions in Canton crash
(Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff)
Engineer Ronald Gomes and conductor Rick Platt examined the watches they were given at the ceremony.
By Matt Collette, Globe Correspondent
When Ronald Gomes saw a runaway freight car barreling towards the commuter rail train he was driving in the evening of March 25, he knew he had to act quickly.
“I knew that the impact ... was unavoidable,” Gomes said. “I knew that we were going to need emergency services, so I just tried to inform the dispatchers that we were going to need medical attention."
As he was on the radio, the 112-ton freight car smashed into his train. The terror in Gomes’s voice can be heard on dispatch tapes, which can be found by clicking here.
“It was just ‘Bang!’ It was so quick,” Gomes recalled today after a ceremony in Boston honoring him and his two fellow crew members, Richard Platt and Chris Leaman, for their actions in the crash.
“One month ago these men reacted professionally, swiftly, and calmly in a life-threatening situation they never could have expected when they got up in the morning,” said Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Bernard Cohen. “All three members of the crew deserve our thanks and recognition.”
Cohen was joined by officials from the MBTA and the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co., which runs the commuter rail service for the MBTA, at the ceremony, which also marked the graduation of eight new locomotive engineers.
Gomes was knocked out for a few minutes – he doesn’t know exactly how long – and woke up with a split lip, fractured ribs, and two missing teeth. Dripping with blood, Gomes reached again for his radio. "A box car crashed into us," he told the dispatcher.
The collision in Canton sent the southbound train heading into Canton Junction hurtling 47 feet backward and threw passengers and crew to the floor, injuring 150.
When Gomes got out of his engine, he said, he saw Platt, the conductor, and Leaman, the assistant conductor, helping injured passengers off the train.
The ceremony offered the new graduates the chance to learn one final lesson before they start driving trains of their own.
“To the members of the Class of 2007, we hope you are never faced with a similar situation to the one in Canton Junction,” Cohen said. “But if you ever are, you now have a model for how to respond in the crew of Train 917.”
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