LAGRANGE — Police Chief Chad Duensing rescued a man whose wheelchair was stuck on the railroad tracks on South Center Street with a train approaching.
Duensing was patrolling about 6 p.m. Tuesday when he saw the man’s predicament. He pulled onto the tracks to help Dale Given, 55, a resident of Keystone Pointe Health and Rehabilitation Center on Opportunity Way in LaGrange.
“When I got out to assist him, a train was coming, trapping my patrol vehicle under the gates,” Duensing said Wednesday.
Other motorists stopped to help, too, but Duensing told them to stay back as he worried for their safety.
Duensing said he worked as quickly as he could to get the wheelchair wheels free from the tracks, allowing him to push Given to safety.
“I was able to get the wheelchair unstuck and removed from the tracks,” Duensing said. “I backed up the cruiser as far as I could off away from the tracks when I got back in to avoid getting hit by the train.”
The police cruiser’s roof sustained slight damage from the pressure of the gates. The crossing gates were not destroyed. And, the train never had to slow down or stop, Duensing said.
Duensing downplayed the rescue, saying it was “just part of the job.”
“It wasn’t that big of a deal,” he said.
LaGrange Mayor Kim Strauss thinks otherwise.
“The man had two of his wheels stuck between the rail and blacktop,” Strauss said. “And as he was trying to help the man, the gates started to come down. Chief Duensing told me, ‘I’m sorry, I had to make a decision to either save the vehicle from the gates or save the man …’ ”
Strauss said Duensing made the right decision.
“Police officers do really good things, and there are a lot of good officers,” Strauss said.
Given could not be reached and the administrator at the nursing home would not comment.