(Santa Clara, California – January 27, 2014)
Without a second thought, a successful marketer for a Santa Clara, CA-based Silicon Valley computer graphics firm reached out to rescue an unknown fellow passenger as the two were waiting for their trains at Caltrain’s Santa Clara station, only to lose his own life while successfully saving the man he sought to rescue as an express train barreled through the open-platform station at a speed estimated as between 50 and 70 mph on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
The tragic death of 35-year-old Philip Scholz, who was awaiting a train home to Pleasanton, CA, where his wife of seven years, Emily, was fixing supper, at first was allegedly passed off as part of a mysterious activity with the as-yet unidentified individual whom Scholz went to rescue. But videotapes from Caltrain depot security cameras as well as the locomotive’s nose camera revealed an entirely different, heroic scenario than what was first reported. Mysteriously, the announcement as to the true nature of the event was, for some unknown reason, withheld until four days later.
“It… appears Mr. Scholz was attempting to help the surviving victim, based on preliminary information,” Caltrans Spokeswoman Christine Dunn said cautiously. Some reports had charged some sort of altercation or disagreement between the pair of potential passengers. Dunn did not address the reason for waiting until the end of the week to announce its more-explanatory details.
The surviving victim is still hospitalized in critical condition, unable to communicate with investigators.
“It doesn’t matter at this point,” Scholz’s widow tearfully told San Jose Mercury-News Reporter Eric Kurhi in a telephone interview. “I just want people to know that he wasn’t doing something stupid, or that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He wasn’t in some kind of argument. He was doing the right thing when it happened,” continued Mrs. Scholz, still reeling from the tragic news of her husband’s death that was delivered to her at the couple’s home by San Mateo County Sheriff’s deputies Monday night.
Friends, neighbors and co-workers were left in shock at the death of their colleague. Nvidia co-founder Chris Malachowsky described his trusted employee’s selfless act as “completely resonates with something consistent with the guy. He was confident, aggressive and capable,” lauded his superior. “I’m sure his knee-jerk, no hesitation to help someone else is what caused this – he goes down as a hero in my book,” concluded Malachowsky of the man who had dropped his backpack, lay down on his belly along the platform and reached out for the stranger on the tracks.
Co-professional and long-time friend Matt Conwell of Portland, OR said “That’s the way he was. I can only hope to live life like he did.” Conwell continued that “he meshed that competitive spirit with compassion and a genuine interest in others that made him charismatic and ‘that guy you wanted to hang out with’. I’m still in shock and disbelief.”
Family friend and neighbor Jeannette Ricafrente recalled relying heavily upon the Scholz’s for support during her husband’s three-year deployment to Afghanistan, saying “I don’t know if it has hit me quite yet – I’m still working on it.”
A memorial service for Philip Scholz is scheduled for 10:00 A.M., February 10 at Pleasanton’s Veterans Memorial Building.