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Muni operator saves life, stops train mere inches from man on tracks

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A life was saved July 26 when Muni driver Evelyn McWay stopped her train just inches in front of a man on the tracks. (Courtesy SFMTA)
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The Muni tunnels underneath San Francisco are mostly darkness, punctuated by streaks of occasional light. Pulling into Powell station, the change in light is stark.

That’s partly why Muni driver Evelyn McWay’s quick reflexes and actions on July 26 so surprised her bosses.

As McWay’s N-Judah train coasted into Powell station, she saw a flash of movement. Someone jumped onto the tracks. She slammed the “mushroom,” the train’s emergency brake, and the massive train slid to a stop.

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“At that point, I thought I had killed the guy,” McWay told the San Francisco Examiner.

But she didn’t. In fact, she stopped just in time — a photo of the man shows him mere inches from the train.

A passenger watching from the platform gave McWay two thumbs up.

In a remarkable close call, McWay saved a life and now is being honored by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

She was awarded Tuesday with a certificate of appreciation from the agency at the regular meeting of the SFMTA Board of Directors. McWay’s boss, Director of Transit John Haley, sang her praises to the board.

“It’s one thing to be trained. It’s another thing to have the wherewithal and presence of mind to apply the training in a real life situation,” Haley said. “[McWay] is, in fact, a true life-saver.”

McWay called for emergency assistance after she halted her train.

“Those minutes seemed like hours,” she told the Examiner.

The man McWay saved said he heard voices that told him to jump in the tracks, according to McWay, who said she read it in the police report.

She also said the man was cuffed by police and escorted from Powell station.

Generally in these situations, police would take the troubled person to San Francisco General Hospital’s Psychiatric Emergency Services, but the San Francisco Police Department was unable to confirm whether that happened in this case.

Though the outcome was hopeful, McWay said, “It traumatized me.” She’s now seeking counseling to help deal with the incident.

Still, McWay said it was worth it. Due to timing, she believes the train behind her would not have been successful in avoiding the man who leapt onto the tracks.

“After going through it in my mind, I thought, ‘Thank God I was there and able to save this man’s life,’” she said. “I give it all to God.”

Below is a video interview with McWay.

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