"The timing couldn't have been more perfect": MTA workers describe saving child from train tracks

MTA video from inside a train shows the moments a conductor on a southbound passing train saved the life of an autistic child who had wandered onto the tracks earlier this month.

MTA locomotive engineer William Kennedy and assistant conductor Marcus Higgins who helped save the child joined Good Day NY on Wednesday.

Kennedy was heading to Tarrytown on a "dead head," which is slang for an empty train, as Higgins was leaving Tarrytown.

"It was a normal Thursday coming out of the yard," Kennedy said, until he saw something drop from the corner of his eye and decided to slow the train down to get a better visual.  Once he got close enough he realized that it was a young child.  He noticed the child was walking towards the live rail.

When asked what would have happened to the child if he touched the third rail, Kennedy said that the child "would have been hurt really bad."

The third rail, also known as a live rail, is an electric rail. This rail provides nearly 600 volts of electric power. 

"The timing couldn't have been more perfect, you know. If it was a minute later a minute sooner I wouldn't have seen him," Kennedy explained. 

As Kennedy was approaching the rail yard he said he saw something fall from the sky. "I didn't know if it was an animal or a very small thing," he said.

Once Kennedy noticed the child he immediately hit the brakes, called for an emergency and shut off the third track. He also called Higgins, who was coming out of Tarrytown, and let him know that there was a child on the tracks.

"At that moment I'm thinking about probably 30 different things. I'm thinking about where there's an adult, is there people...why is this kid here," Kennedy said.

Higgins slowed his train down until he could see the child. "We're like oh my God…we're like, we need to rectify this," he said.

Once he got out, he tried to signal the child to the right in hopes that he would not go towards the live rail. 

"He ended up climbing over the third rail," Higgins said, until he finally got over to him and scooped the toddler up.

Higgins described the moment of relief, "we got him over to the side and he kind of had a smile on his face."

Once they retrieved the child from the tracks they then had to figure out where his guardian was. 

"To see a child, the level of urgency excels," Kennedy explained, "I'm a father of four, it just kicked in like, this kid does not belong here we need to save this kid."  

As that was happening, the boy's mother and sister were franticly looking for him. They were spotted crying on a street corner being helped by police.

MTA crews, along with police, were able to reunite the child with his mother. 

Higgins said that the mother was distraught but that "it was a feel good story, don't get me wrong, it was unbelievable, and God willing it worked out the way it did..."

Kennedy said had they been there a minute earlier or a minute later, it would have been a different outcome.

The moment was recognized at this week's MTA’s board meeting, a moment of quick-thinking and compassion resulting in a happy ending.