With all the kids safely in school and the morning rush winding down, Riverside crossing guard Fred Malon stood near his post on April 12 at the downtown Riverside rail intersection, enjoying the spring weather and waiting for another typically uneventful shift to end.
Around 8:30 a.m., he noticed a woman lugging what he described as a “backpack on wheels” start across the railroad tracks from south to north. As she got about halfway across the three-track right-of-way, the warning bells sounded and crossing gates started to come down.
“She tried to hurry up, but she fell,” said Malon, who saw an eastbound commuter express train in the distance and shouted for the woman to get up.
When the woman didn’t respond, the 75-year-old Malon rushed over to her.
“I’m dying, I’m dying!” the woman, a 55-year-old resident of unincorporated Riverside Lawn, reportedly screamed as Malon arrived at her side.
Malon’s response: “Not yet.”
With that Malon pulled the woman up and hurried her off the tracks.
“When she fell, she hit her face,” Malon said. “When I first saw her, she looked OK and she went off shopping at Riverside Foods. When she came back, she was scared to cross the tracks, so I helped her out again.”
With the woman feeling a little woozy, Malon brought her to Grumpy’s Cafe at 1 Riverside Road and Riverside paramedics treated her. She refused to be transported to a hospital for additional observation.
According to Riverside Assistant Police Chief Thomas Weitzel, the woman told emergency personnel that she didn’t remember what happened at the time she fell down on the tracks. She reportedly also told police she suffers from a medical problem where she simply passes out.
“From all accounts, if she hadn’t been moved, we’d be investigating a pedestrian struck by a train,” Weitzel said.
Malon, a longtime Stickney resident who has been a crossing guard in Riverside for about a year-and-a-half, will be recognized by the Riverside Police with a life-saving award at a future meeting of the village board, Weitzel said.
Since being assigned his rotating shift at the rail crossing, Malon said that things have been pretty quiet. The toughest intersection is the one just north of the tracks, where Longcommon, Burlington and Forest all intersect.
“That one can get crazy,” Malon said.