September 29, 2020 Amtrak Police and California Operation Lifesaver recognize Lodi cop who rescued a man stuck on railroad tracks

66-year-old wheelchair user was in direct path of oncoming train

LODI, Calif. – The Amtrak Police Department (APD) presented a Lodi, California Police Officer with the prestigious “Life Saving Medal” for her swift and heroic actions that saved a man’s life within seconds of being hit by an oncoming freight train. Officer Erika Urrea, a 14-year veteran of the force, was honored at the Lodi Police Station during an award ceremony on Monday hosted by APD and California Operation Lifesaver, a non-profit railroad safety education organization.

On Aug.12, Officer Urrea spotted a man in a wheelchair stuck on the railroad tracks near Lodi Avenue. As the crossing gates activated and were coming down, Urrea got out of her patrol car and ran to assist. After unsuccessfully attempting to free the wheelchair, with only seconds to spare, she physically pulled the man out of the chair and the two fell backwards just a few feet away from the oncoming 250-ton freight train locomotive. The 66-year-old man is recovering from serious injuries to both of his legs as a result of the incident.   

“This incident had the makings of a double tragedy had it not been for the extraordinary courage and quick actions of Officer Urrea,” said Amtrak Police Chief Sam Dotson. “The citizens of Lodi are very fortunate to have a public servant like this on duty in their community. The ‘Life Saving Medal’ recognizes her bravery in saving a fellow human being without hesitation for her own safety.”   

During the ceremony, Lodi Police Chief Sierra Brucia called his officer a true hero.

“Officer Erika Urrea displayed courageous and selfless behavior by rescuing a citizen from the path of a train at great risk to herself,” said Chief Brucia. “This act was not done out of duty as an officer; she was compelled to respond because bravery and compassion are a part of her character. The Lodi Police Department is extremely proud of Erika and her heroic actions that day.”

Presenting the “Life Saving Medal” to Urrea was Captain Douglas Calcagno from the Amtrak Police Department’s Western Division. Awards were also presented to the Officer by Steve Walker a California Operation Lifesaver Board member, and Eric Walker and Joe Petito with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in California.    

The ceremony closed out Rail Safety Week 2020, observed in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. For more information on railroad safety education please visit stayoffthetracks.org and oli.org.

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Beth K. Toll

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