Jefferson County Sheriff Mitch Woods presented Deputy Larry Gilder with a Life Saving Award at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Academy Classroom in Beaumont on Oct. 30.
On Oct. 12, Gilder was patrolling the area of Highway 90 and Meeker Road, near Cowboy Church on the Rock west of Beaumont, when he saw an 18-wheeler pulling a trailer with a heavy load of oil equipment become stuck on the railroad tracks.
“I saw that he was having a difficult time turning, so I parked my car and got out and blocked the traffic for him to avoid any accidents,” Gilder said. “Most of his truck and trailer made it, but the rear ran off the side of the road and got caught on one of the railroad attachments and became stuck.”
Gilder said he pulled up along the side of the trailer and told the driver to stop and that he needed to try and back his trailer up because he was unable to go forward.
“He managed to back up a little bit, but it wasn’t sufficient,” he said. “I turned and looked to my side and saw the train coming. I got on my radio and called my dispatcher and told him to alert the railroad (company). His tire was off-center so we couldn’t move (the truck) at all, and the train was still coming.”
The driver never saw or heard the train, Gilder said.
“He had his truck running,” he said. “With all the other noises around him, he never heard it. By now, I’m hollering repeatedly, ‘Sir, you need to get out of the truck!’ and started jumping up and down yelling, ‘Train! Train!’”
When the driver realized what Gilder was saying, he finally started to vacate the vehicle. After Gilder warned the driver to move to a safe place, he then attempted to move his police cruiser out of the way of the oncoming train.
“I jumped in my vehicle and as soon as I put it in drive — impact,” Gilder said.
The deputy’s vehicle was merely seconds away from a wreck with the train that would have crushed his patrol car and possibly killed him as well, he said.
“When that piece of metal came off that trailer, it was sailing (through the air) toward where his patrol car was,” said Jefferson County Deputy Rod Carroll. “(Gilder) is usually a calm person on the radio, but when I heard his voice on the radio, I could hear that momentum in his voice. If he would not have moved out of the way, we would be buying a new patrol car.”
After the impact, the driver thanked Gilder for helping him and informed him that his son was napping in the sleeper of the truck.
Gilder said that he did not realize there was a passenger in the truck until after the train hit the trailer.
“After the dust cleared, I managed to get back over and check (the driver’s) status,” Gilder said. “He thanked me.”
The driver realized that without the warning, he and his son might have been killed, Gilder said.
“(Police officers) get paid decently, but it is something far greater that makes them want to go into (law enforcement),” said Carroll. “(Gilder) took his own life in his hands when he ran across the railroad tracks to get everybody out of the truck.”