Bill Silverfarb/Daily Journal
San Mateo County sheriff’s deputies Sal Zuno and Brandon Hensel are transit officers for Caltrain who saved a suicidal man’s life last week.
Last week was a rough one for the transit police that patrol more than 80 miles of train tracks across three counties as two pedestrians were struck and killed on Caltrain tracks.
First a woman was struck in Burlingame at about 7:40 a.m., Friday, May 10 and then another person was struck and killed at about 5:20 a.m., Wednesday May 15 in San Bruno. The deaths were the seventh and eighth this year on Caltrain tracks.
The next day, May 16, San Mateo County sheriff’s deputies Sal Zuno and Brandon Hensel got another early-morning call from an anonymous tipster who said someone was acting suspiciously on the tracks near the Hillsdale Caltrain station in San Mateo.
When the two transit officers arrived at about 7:40 a.m., they could not immediately spot the man. With a train starting to leave the station going south, they then saw someone standing in the train’s path and they yelled at him to clear the tracks.
The man, however, did not respond.
It looked to be another suicide in the making, which most deaths on the tracks are.
Zuno and Hensel, however, sprinted for the man and pulled him off the tracks just 20 seconds before the train passed.
“He was clearly in a very volatile state. His intent was to harm himself,” Zuno told the Daily Journal.
Each year, Caltrain averages about 12 deaths on the tracks and Zuno, Hensel and other transit police officers are usually some of the first ones on the scene.
It is not their favorite part of the job but sometimes they arrive on the scene just in time to save someone’s life.
“We have similar occurrences all the time” Hensel said about pulling the man to safety Thursday.
Caltrain has a campaign, “See Something, Say Something,” to urge people to make a call if they see someone acting suspicious on the tracks.
While the number of fatalities on the tracks attract lots of attention, the number of incidents when people are pulled off the tracks and spared death by police are rarely reported.
“We get more saves than you might think. If it were up to us, we want that to always be the outcome,” Zuno said about pulling the man to safety Thursday.
A partnership with the community, Hensel said, can help save more lives in the future and Caltrain officials call the “unsung hero” in the story the anonymous caller who took the time to report the suspicious behavior.
Caltrain customers can report unsafe or suspicious behavior and other urgent concerns by contacting Transit Police dispatch directly at (877) SAF-RAIL ((877) 723-7245).
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106