MBTA Orange Line operator Charice Lewis saw the passengers at North Station flailing their arms. At about the same time, she heard a train inspector on her onboard radio telling her to pull the emergency brake to avoid hitting a woman who had fallen on the track.
Lewis didn’t have time to think. She just did it.
The brakes stopped the heavy subway car just inches – if that – from the woman who had tumbled off the T platform Friday night. The woman has not been identified.
“It was so close, I thought it was not good,” Lewis said today, recounting her emotions in the seconds after the incident.
“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 had scraped knees but was otherwise all right. She told police she had been drinking at a nearby bar, authorities said.
Lewis, who was called by the governor since the near miss and honored by Secretary of Transportation Jeffrey Mullan today as a hero, said she was just doing her job. Other employees gave her and inspector Jacqueline Osorio – who was standing on the platform and quickly called for her to stop -- a standing ovation during an MBTA meeting this afternoon.
A video surveillance tape released by the T today showed the moments of panic, the flailing arms of bystanders, and the fallen woman’s foot coming perilously close to the third electrified rail. But the most dramatic and amazing moment in the video comes as the bright lights of the train emerge from the tunnel and it slows down to a stop, just a hair from the fallen woman.
Cynthia White, who pulled the woman from the tracks after the near-miss, said she wrote the MBTA and the Globe on the night of the incident so that the train operator and inspector would get the credit they deserved.
“It looked like it was not going to end well,” said White, a South End resident who attended a Celtics game and locked eyes with the woman who fell on the tracks as she lost her footing.
It was a welcome bit of inspiration for an organization that has been shaken by recent crashes blamed on operators, and the release last week of a report showing the state has not been able to provide necessary money for critical safety maintenance projects on the system.
“People say ‘The T’s bad, the T’s this, the T’s that,’” said Lewis, who has been with the agency for three years. “There’s a lot of T employees, we do what we’re supposed to do.”
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