Good Samaritan 'so sorry' she couldn't save man in wheelchair from oncoming train
Published Monday, May 28, 2018 7:00PM PDT Last Updated Tuesday, May 29, 2018 8:01AM PDT
Julie Callaghan knew she had only seconds to save a life.
She remembers frantically pushing, pulling and lifting. But in the end, there was nothing she could do to rescue a man whose motorized wheelchair had become stuck in the path of an oncoming train Saturday.
"We just couldn't get those front wheels to move," she told CTV News, describing her and another woman's frenzied efforts to get 40-year-old Matthew Jarvis out of the way. "We just couldn't get the momentum to even get him out."
Jarvis was making a short trip to a 7-Eleven near his Chilliwack home when his chair became stuck on the tracks.
Callaghan was one of two Good Samaritans who jumped out of their vehicles to help him once they realized his predicament.
"As the arms started to come down, he looked to his left and then he started rocking in his chair like he was trying to move himself, so I knew he was struck," she said.
The pair worked in silence, but there simply wasn't enough time.
"It was quiet. Nobody talked. I didn't hear the train. I didn't hear anything after that," she said. "I just knew in my head that I needed to look because the time was coming."
That's when she realized there was no choice but to jump out of the way.
"I remember the sound of his chair getting hit," she said. "That will stay with me…"
Callaghan stayed by Jarvis's side for so long that one of her hands was hit by the train, leaving her with shattered knuckles, broken bones and torn tendons. She has since undergone surgery, but doctors remain worried about permanent nerve damage to her hand.
The other woman was physically unharmed.
Jarvis, who died at the scene, started using the wheelchair in early 2017 when car crash fractured the vertebrae between his shoulder blades and left his spinal column bruised.
There was hope that the father of three would one day walk again.
Over the weekend, his partner, Valerie Schneider, thanked the women for trying to help, calling the "angels of God."
While their actions are being called heroic, Callaghan said she just did what anyone would do.
"It was just the right thing to do for any human being stuck on a train track," she said. "How do you not attempt to save somebody?"
Now, Callaghan has surrounded herself with family and friends as she tries to heal, both physically and emotionally, but said the thought of what she could have done differently that day will haunt her for a long time.
"I'm just so sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I couldn't fix it," she said.
She has also set up an online fundraiser to help pay for the funeral costs.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Michele Brunoro