A Brookfield Public Works employee rushed to the aid of a woman who fell out of a wheelchair while being pushed across the tracks at Prairie Avenue, trying to beat an oncoming train to the intersection on May 19 around 10:15 a.m.

Water Department Foreman Andy Zontos was sitting in his truck on the south side of the railroad tracks waiting at the downed gates when he saw a 50-year-old Berwyn man push his 43-year-old wheelchair-bound wife around the downed gates, attempting to make it to the south side of tracks before an eastbound Metra train arrived.

“They were halfway through when the wheelchair got caught on the rail and the lady went flying out of the wheelchair face first,” said Zontos, who has worked for the village for 19 years.

Zontos, 44, said the train engineer had begun sounding the air horn immediately and applied the emergency brakes to slow the train down. Meanwhile, Zontos jumped out of his truck and ran to the woman, dragging her by the jacket to the south while her husband retrieved the wheelchair.

The two made it off the tracks just seconds before the Metra train passed through the intersection.

“I went to assist the lady because she couldn’t get off the tracks,” Zontos said. “I just wanted to help her out.”

Brookfield Police Officer David Harrison was headed westbound on Brookfield Avenue north of the tracks when he heard the train signals sound. Harrison said he watched in disbelief as the man sped up and went around the gates with the wheelchair.

Harrison said he planned to head across the tracks once the train cleared to hand the man a ticket for ignoring the downed gates. And then the woman suddenly fell out of the wheelchair as it hit the southernmost set of rails.

“I’m thinking, ‘Is this really happening right now?'” Harrison recalled. “I can see the train coming.” 

Harrison jumped out of his car and ran toward the tracks, where he saw Zontos, who is also a Brookfield auxiliary police officer, rushing to assist. He yelled for Zontos to go back and then lost sight of what happened as the train came through the crossing.

“I didn’t think the woman honestly had a chance,” Harrison said. “From my perspective where I was standing, I thought they got nailed.”

In reality, everyone made it several feet south of the tracks before the train came through. Still, said Harrison, he couldn’t believe what he had just witnessed.

“I’ve been a police officer for 13 years, and that was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen,” Harrison said.

Once the train cleared the crossing, he ticketed the woman’s husband for failure to yield at a grade crossing and asked why he had taken such a chance.

“He said they wanted to catch the train [to take them back to Berwyn],” said Harrison. “I said, ‘You almost lost your life!'”

Creepy bus stop encounter

A 34-year-old North Riverside woman notified North Riverside Park Mall security on May 21 about 4:30 p.m. after she had a strange encounter with an unknown man at the mall bus stop.

According to police, the woman sat down at the bus stop when a man, described as Hispanic, about 5-foot-4, 300 pounds, dressed in all black with a beard and eyeglasses, sat down next to her and engaged in small talk.

During the conversation, the man reportedly told the woman she was beautiful and that he was a photographer. He then reportedly pulled out a wad of cash and offered it in exchange for being allowed to photograph her.

When the woman got up to walk away, the man allegedly grabbed her by the sleeve and attempted to coax her to go with him. The woman broke free and got on the nearest bus. After noticing the man boarded the bus as well, she got off and notified mall security.

Security personnel were unable to locate a suspect.

Please go away

Brookfield police charged a 52-year-old Brookfield woman with disorderly conduct and trespassing after she allegedly knocked on a neighbor’s door and yelled profanities at him while she was intoxicated on May 18 about 4:10 p.m. in the 8900 block of Village Square Lane.

Police warned the woman not to return to the neighbor’s residence, but she reportedly did so just about 20 minutes after the warning.

These items were obtained from police reports filed by the Riverside, North Riverside and Brookfield police departments, May 18-22, and represent a portion of the incidents to which police responded. Unless otherwise indicated, anybody named in these reports has only been charged with a crime. These cases have not been adjudicated.

Compiled by Bob Uphues