It was the Monday before Thanksgiving, and in the pre-dawn darkness, Leang "Terry" Ear, was driving westbound on Harrisburg. The METRORail traction power technician had fueled his truck at the Field Service Center when a bicyclist pedaled over and waved frantically.
A silver car driving eastbound had just crashed into a light pole next to the track, and smoke was already floating up above the engine. Ear, 44, rushed over to the car, peered into the passenger window and saw a woman slumped down almost on the floor board. He heard a low moan.
By now, sparks of flames were dancing around the engine. Time was running out.
"I needed to get her out of there," said Ear. "I reached into the passenger door and window and pulled her out through the window. It was dead weight – quite difficult. You just do it."
He placed her 20 to 30 feet away on the trackway, away from the burning car and safe from traffic. Then he walked over to the driver's side. The man on the bike warned that the driver's door was jammed. The driver's torso and head had slid below the steering wheel. He was not wearing a seat belt.
"He was way down there and I was thinking, 'Hopefully, the fire doesn't intensify, and I can leave him because I don't want to move him when he's injured.' But the flames intensified," recalled Ear. He started pulling on the driver's car door, and it finally jerked open.
"I saw him and heard a faint moan. He was almost unconscious. He was a pretty stocky guy – well-built," said Ear, who is five-foot-six and 150 pounds. "It was one of those things where you knew you had to do something and you pray you can pull him out – otherwise, someone would be burned alive."
Ear wrapped his arms around the upper body of the driver and tugged. By the third or fourth attempt, Ear managed to pull the man out. "I had a big sigh of relief. I pulled him over to Track One as far as I could at the time, about 20 to 30 feet away," said Ear.
The man's right foot sustained an open fracture with the ankle bone protruding. "He moved it several times, and I said, 'Sir, don't move your leg.' I kept telling them to please stay awake, you're going to be fine, help is on the way," said Ear. "It was surreal."
A few minutes later, a firetruck and an ambulance arrived, transporting the injured couple to the hospital. "I was grateful to see them," said Ear.
The married father of three said he had taken first aid courses in high school and college – but this was the first time he's rescued anyone.
Ear, who is a Cambodian-born Chinese, fled his homeland when he was seven years old during the period of the Killing Fields under Pol Pot, when more than a million people were killed and buried by the Communist Khmer Rouge regime. He and his family lived in refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines before immigrating to San Francisco.
He graduated from DeVry University in Pomona, Calif., with a degree in electronics. Eight months ago, Ear began working at METRO as a traction power technician, maintaining and fixing substations and the overhead contact system for the trains. His uniform identifies him as Unit 1542.
Later, once his bosses heard of what happened, an email thread spread with the subject line: "Unit 1542 Saves the Day."
"I'm very proud that he's one of my technicians," said Foy Durham, METRORail's chief of traction power. "I'm very proud he knew what to do and was able to take care of those two individuals and get them to safety. This is a very bright spot for METRO and should be celebrated."
When informed of Ear's courageous deed, Romeo Calderon, director of Rail Maintenance emailed: "Your situational awareness was keen, and your ability to quickly assess eminent danger and take selfless action that saved the lives of two individuals is to be commended. You should be very proud of yourself."
Ear shrugs off his actions, saying anyone would have done the same thing. But the video from the platform cameras show several cars slowing down at the scene of the accident…and driving on.
"Human lives - we should be grateful for our lives and helping each other," said Ear. "When you see something like this, you try your best and hope for the best. I'm just glad I was able to do what I could."
All fields are required.Comments are subject to review and approval.
Home | About Us | Guidelines | BlogMaster | Ridemetro.org
Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas • 1900 Main St. • Houston, TX 77002 • 713-635-4000© Copyright 2008 - 2017. All rights reserved. •