A Manteca woman who rushed to the aid of a traffic accident victim in a SUV that plunged off the 120 Bypass and landed on railroad tracks is credited with pulling the man to safety just moments before an Altamont Corridor Express train slammed into the vehicle.
Community hospice nurse Stephanie Moreno of Manteca, was riding her motorcycle on the westbound 120 Bypass Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. when she saw a 2004 Ford Explorer run off the freeway ahead of her from the outside lane, going down an embankment and ending up on the train tracks.
ACE spokesman Steve Walker said the SUV had come off an overpass between East Yosemite Avenue and the Interstate 5 interchange just above the tracks and landed on the rails 75 feet below.
Moreno had been going to see a friend after she got off work in Stockton, taking her motorcycle instead of her car in a bid to better navigate afternoon commute traffic when she witnessed the crash.
Moreno quickly parked her motorcycle along the freeway and jogged down the embankment to aid the man and woman still sitting in their vehicle where it ended up on the tracks used by the ACE passenger trains. Other motorists joined her with towels and shirts to use for a tourniquet and pressure bandage for a gash on the 27-year-old male passenger’s upper arm.
She said he appeared to have a dislocated hip. A CHP spokesman confirmed he also suffered a broken femur.
Moreno said she and others were busy attempting to get the passenger out of the vehicle as the woman driver, also 27, crawled out of the SUV. She said they had not been paying attention to what was coming down the tracks and was shocked when they heard the horn blasts of a commuter express train coming at them on a return trip from the Bay Area.
Lathrop Fire Chief Gene Neeley said Moreno and the SUV passenger both had to dive away from the vehicle stuck on the tracks to be clear of the train with its 750 passengers on board. Moreno said she had actually pushed the injured man into a fetal position away from the head-on impact of the engine. He was concerned that his leg had been run over at impact. She said she assured him he would be OK.
“If it hadn’t been for that horn, we would have been killed,” she said.
The SUV had gone across a siding that ran parallel to the main line. The train’s engine struck the vehicle causing its airbags to explode and pushed it back down the tracks some 50 feet.
The ACE No. 6 train was delayed for about 90 minutes for the investigation. The tracks were inspected and cleared for service by Union Pacific personnel before the next train passed. The ACE No. 8 train was given the approval to travel through the incident site shortly before 8 p.m. The Ace No. 10 train was not affected.
Walker said the injuries occurred from the initial crash off the freeway and not from any contact with the ACE engine. No one was injured on the train, he said.