(Wheatland, California – June 19, 2015)
A one-legged local man in his sixties and in a wheelchair lost his life and that of the pet dog he tried to save from a Union Pacific freight train at about 7:45 P.M. Friday evening as the inseparable pair were returning home from a trip to a nearby food market in Wheatland, CA.
Although authorities are still investigating the tragedy, witnesses say they felt Jim Boswell got the wheel of his wheelchair caught in the flangeway of the UPRR tracks near Big Al’s Market in Wheatland as he unsuccessfully attempted to rescue his pet dog from the path of one of the two dozen daily UP trains that pass through the Sacramento-area community at speeds as high as 70 mph. Witnesses added they think the dog got away from him as they approached the railroad tracks.
Boswell, who lived in the mobile home park that lies on the opposite side of the tracks from the market, was known by friends, neighbors and staffers at Big Al’s to be “prideful and independent, who never asked for help and cherished his dog,” according to Sacramento CBS News Channel 13 reports.
“He had just come in,” recalls Big Al’s employee Rachel Sewell. “We had literally just helped him less than five minutes before it happened.”
Neighbor Ron Edwards, who heard “The sound of those brakes — It’s an eerie sound, you know, where you’re really getting down on the brakes,” went to investigate, and found his neighbor dead near the tracks. “Oh, it was sad, of course. Plus he’s got his little dog with him and everything,” lamented Edwards to a Channel 13 reporter.
“Twenty-four hours later, some of his groceries are still on the tracks, and workers at the market are still in shock over what happened to their regular customer,” who also used a prosthetic leg, but had not taken the device along on his trip to the grocery store. “We’re all really, we’re all distraught,” said Ms. Sewell mournfully.
The tragedy occurred at the Main Street crossing, which is equipped with crossing gates, lights and bells.